The preventable death of someone close to you is an immeasurably painful event. Whether the loss was due to a motor vehicle accident, a fall in a nursing home, or an accident on someone else’s dangerous property, many families find it difficult to move beyond grief to consider how justice can be obtained for a loved one. Below, we offer advice on what steps to take after you suspect wrongful death.
The personal injury Law Office of Todd W. Burris is located in Lexington, KY and represents families of wrongful death victims throughout the state. We provide free consultations to those searching for answers after the tragic loss of a loved one. Scheduling a case evaluation at our office gives you the opportunity to sit down with a qualified Kentucky wrongful death attorney and learn more about your legal options. There is never a fee or obligation associated with this meeting. Please contact our law firm to schedule a consultation if you have questions.
What To Do After You Suspect Wrongful Death
If you believe a person’s death was wrongful, there are a few steps you can take as you begin the process of taking legal action against the at-fault party. A wrongful death is defined as one caused by the negligent actions of another person or party. If the victim had survived, they would have had grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit. In other words, the person would still be living if not for someone else’s wrongful actions.
Wrongful death claims are important in situations like these. It allows grieving family members to hold the wrongdoer accountable, preventing the defendant and others from engaging in the same negligent behaviors that killed the victim. It is also a way for families to recover from the financial burden that accompanied the death.
Surviving families typically face significant expenses related to attempts at life-saving medical interventions, funeral and burial costs, and other associated economic damages. This comes at a time when the family has also lost the decedent’s financial support. When non-economic damages are calculated to address pain and suffering and the loss of emotional support, guidance, consortium, and companionship, the staggering cost of a wrongful death becomes apparent.
Here is a brief outline of steps to take after you suspect wrongful death.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney
If you believe your loved one’s death was caused by another party’s negligence, your first step should be to speak with a qualified attorney. A wrongful death lawyer in Kentucky can advise you of the legal process and the state laws applicable to your case. An experienced legal representative will be able to evaluate the circumstances of your case to determine whether you are qualified to file a wrongful death claim. If so, your attorney can begin to gather the evidence needed to build a strong case on your behalf.
When you first meet with a wrongful death attorney, prepare a list of topics to discuss. This can include questions such as:
- Do I have grounds to take legal action?
- Who is qualified to file a claim on behalf of my family?
- What are the benefits of filing a wrongful death claim in my situation?
- Are there any specific challenges my case presents?
- How long do you anticipate my case will take to reach an outcome?
- What kind of compensation is my family eligible for?
- Do punitive damages apply in my case?
- What has been the result of some of the past wrongful death cases you have handled?
Keep Track of All Relevant Documents
Begin keeping a file of all documents that have even a slight connection with the circumstances surrounding the decedent’s death. If you’re not sure, save it anyway. Make copies and keep your records organized and in a safe location where they won’t be lost. After you suspect wrongful death, this evidence will be invaluable in helping to support your claim against a negligent party. It’s a good idea to bring this information to your meeting with your wrongful death lawyer.
Relevant documents that can support a wrongful death claim include:
- Hospital bills, test results, and medical records related to the injury that caused the death
- Bills for a funeral, burial, cremation, or other end-of-life services
- Paychecks, bank deposits, and records showing the deceased’s earnings
- Employment contracts
- Records of health insurance, life insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits the deceased earned through their employment
- Any documentation showing the impact of the loss on your family, such as bills for trauma counseling or mental health therapy, personal journal entries, or changes in employment, volunteer, or social activities
Secure a Copy of the Death Certificate
One of the most important pieces of evidence you will need to pursue a wrongful death claim is proof of death. Make sure you have a copy of the death certificate. If you’re not sure how to obtain one, contact the local county government office to ask for the name and address of the county coroner. You can also speak with your wrongful death lawyer or the funeral director who handled your loved one’s services for more information.
Be Aware of Kentucky Statutes of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a law limiting the amount of time you have to take civil legal action after an event that caused injury or death. Each state has its own system of laws for time limitations on personal injury and wrongful death claims.
In Kentucky, the statute of limitations depends on when a personal representative of the family is appointed. Kentucky law requires that a personal representative be named to file a claim on behalf of the family. The Kentucky statute of limitations is one year from the date the personal representative is appointed or two years from the date of the decedent’s death (if a personal representative is appointed more than one year after the date of the death).
This is a relatively short amount of time to build a strong case and file the necessary legal documentation. Things can also become complicated if a personal representative is not named in the deceased’s will or if there is any dispute about who the personal representative should be. After you suspect wrongful death, it’s always best to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. This will give your family enough time to give your wrongful death claim the diligence and attention your loved one deserves.
The Law Office of Todd W. Burris Is Here To Help Your Family
Wrongful death claims are always difficult, no matter the circumstances of the case. At the Law Office of Todd W. Burris, we know that when your family comes to us, it’s because you’re going through one of the most trying times in your family’s life.
When we take your case, we do so with the understanding that our role as your wrongful death lawyer is to alleviate as much of your family’s emotional and financial burdens as we can. If you are wondering what steps to take after you suspect wrongful death, contact our office to begin a conversation with a legal team member.