How long does a wrongful death case last?

By | September 16, 2013

People who file wrongful death cases quickly find that each case takes its own trajectory. There’s not one set way that a case will play out, and its duration is largely based on the facts and the goals of the client. In Georgia, an Atlanta wrongful death attorney would have more success getting a case hurried through the courts. There, the civil courts are not nearly as overloaded as places like Los Angeles, where it can take two or three years before a case is set for trial. In order to know whether you want to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you should understand the process and how long it will take. The first stages of any case After a loved one has passed away, you can go about the process in many different ways. You’ll go through the grieving process, and you’ll have plenty of time to get in touch with a lawyer after that. For most types of wrongful death claims, you’ll have at least a couple of years to file the lawsuit before the statute of limitations bars your claim. The first real step is contacting an attorney, who will bring you in for a consultation quite quickly after that first phone call. After you meet with an attorney, he’ll give you a good idea of whether you have a case. Depending upon where the accident happened and who was responsible, you may then start filing claims with various insurance companies. This can happen very quickly, but chances are good that insurance companies will string you along. A good lawyer will then help you collect information on who was at fault. Before you can file a lawsuit, you’ll need the names and addresses of all known defendants. This process could take as little as a couple of weeks and as much as a few months depending upon the complexity of the case. Filing the lawsuit After a few weeks have passed, you’ll likely be ready to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Your attorney will likely file the case in state court, as it’s generally better for plaintiffs to go in front of state court juries in these types of cases. Your lawyer will have a short period of time in which he’ll have to serve the other party with notice of the lawsuit. From there, the other party will respond to your suit, and in most cases, they’ll issue a general denial of your claims. They’ll have a month or more to make this response, and they may request extra time to do so. In some instances, the defendant might try to get your lawsuit moved to federal court. This can happen when the amount you’re asking for is significant and the other party is from out of state. Federal courts also have jurisdiction over certain subject matter, so if there is a serious question of federal law that will be at the heart of your case, your lawyer may have to respond to a defendant’s request to have the case removed to federal court. Requests for discovery In any wrongful death lawsuit, discovery is going to be among the most important and most time consuming parts of the process. Your lawyer will file certain papers and requests, and he’ll ask the defendant to come in for a deposition in some cases. Witnesses will be interviewed, and if there’s any information that the defendant holds, your lawyer will try to get it. This can take a couple of months in some cases, as the other party may use delay tactics to drag out your case. Too often, defendants use the system to make life harder on you when you have a wrongful death claim. Filing a motion for summary judgment In almost all cases, the other party will try to have your case thrown out at the summary judgment stage. This is a process where a judge will decide whether there are genuine issues of fact that a jury will need to work through. Summary judgment is only granted when all of the relevant facts have been put into evidence and the only issue left is a matter of legal interpretation. It’s very difficult to have a case thrown out at this point in the process, but these hearings remain important when you file a claim. Settlement discussions in the interim Any good Atlanta wrongful death attorney can tell you that judges will encourage you to mediate the claim with the other party. While you’re preparing to go to trial, you may be asked to meet with the defendant to discuss a settlement. These talks can last months, and they usually begin a few months after you file your initial claim. They can run right up until the moment you go to trial, so you’ll have to be prepared for this. Setting the case for trial After all of the initial motions have been filed and you haven’t reached a settlement, the case will be set for trial. This will be a few months in the future, and it can be as much as a year after you file your lawsuit. A good lawyer can help speed the process up, but there is always a chance that the other party’s attorney or a judge’s schedule could present difficulty for you. If you’re in need of a quick trial process, your lawyer can argue this on your behalf to the presiding judge. Trials can be very short, lasting only a few days in some instances. In most cases, the entire ordeal will be finished within 15 months. A lot will depend upon how complicated your claim is and how much money you’re looking to recover. In almost every case, you will have some control over how long it lasts. Most defendants will look to settle if your case has any strength. Individuals looking to shorten the process always have the option of accepting a settlement to shorten the length of the process and get their hands on compensation.

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