How Long Does it Take to Settle Wrongful Death Claims?

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If you lose a loved one due to the careless or negligent conduct of another person, you may be entitled to compensation. Wrongful death claims can be filed by surviving family members against those responsible for their loved one’s death. One of the most common questions in these cases is – How long does it take to settle a wrongful death claim?

There is no single answer to that question, and each case is different. The facts of the case play a large part in how long a settlement can take.

California wrongful death statute of limitations

In California, family members have a limited time to file a wrongful death case. They have two years from the date of a person’s death to file their lawsuit. In the meantime, insurance carriers for the at-fault party may intentionally make low offers in the hope of you not knowing what your case is worth until after those two years have passed. That is why it is important to contact a skilled Long Beach wrongful death attorney soon after a fatal incident such as a car accident, slip and fall, or bicycle accident occurs. Your lawyer will not let the deadline pass before filing your case and will ensure you are treated fairly by the insurance carrier.

Factors that can affect your case

When you hire an attorney, they will conduct a thorough investigation into the death in order to establish liability for the fatal event. In some cases, police have already completed a fairly thorough investigation, but wrongful death cases do not always involve criminal investigations. If your attorney is starting an investigation from scratch, it could take a bit longer.

It could also take a case longer if there is a dispute over who was at fault. The defendant may claim that they did not cause the incident and may even argue that the victim was responsible for the incident. In this case, your attorney will need to investigate all aspects of what happened in order to prove the defendant’s fault. This may require expert witnesses to provide their opinion about what happened or even the reconstruction of an accident scene.

Is there a reasonable time frame estimate?

Most wrongful death cases settle out of court. Some of them may not even require a lawsuit. These cases could be resolved fairly quickly, especially if the other side’s liability for the incident is clear. If a lawsuit does need to be filed, there will be a “discovery” phase in which evidence is gathered and exchanged by both sides of the suit. This process could take several months. There are usually several court hearing before a case is actually ready for trial. Many court systems are busy, and it could be a year or more until a trial is actually scheduled.

During this process, your Long Beach personal injury lawyer will likely be involved in extensive negotiations with the defendant’s legal team or insurer working towards a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will have your case ready to go to trial.

What type of compensation is available for these cases?

There are various types of compensation available to family members in a wrongful death case, including:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical bills for treatment given to injuries that led to the deceased’s death
  • Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased prior to death
  • Lost wages based on the expected earnings of the deceased if the death had not occurred
  • Loss of consortium to cover emotional damages of the surviving family members
  • Punitive damages to potentially punish the defendant for the behavior that led to the death