A wrongful death claim is filed by the decedent’s personal representative, often the beneficiary of the will. The claim is brought against the defendant that caused the death either through negligence or intentional harm. A wrongful death claim can be filed in circumstances where the victim would have been entitled to a personal injury claim had the incident resulted in injury instead of death. The first step in filing a wrongful death claim is contacting an experienced wrongful death lawyer. If you have a valid claim then the wrongful death attorney will take your case and litigation can proceed.

Investigation and Pre-Litigation

Some wrongful death claims can be settled without going to court. However, most will require filing a lawsuit. This is where an experienced attorney comes into play. They will speak with witnesses and investigate the evidence on behalf of the plaintiff. The attorney will issue a formal demand to obtain compensation from the party or parties responsible for the wrongful death.


Once your attorney has prepared the investigation and pre-litigation they will begin submitting a Complaint and Summons to the defendants. It will contain factual allegations and provable legal claims that hold the defendants responsible for the damages. After the Complaint and Summons is served, the defendant must respond and submit their answer to the court. This begins the process of litigation. The attorneys of both parties will begin the discovery process by collecting documents, evidence, and information from each other.


At this point, both parties may choose to arbitrate their legal dispute or negotiate for a settlement outside of court. This often occurs after the discovery process when new information is brought to light to help each side better understand the strength of their case against the other when going to trial. If a settlement is not agreed upon, then the case will go to trial. Other hearings such as a Status Conference and a Pre-Trial Conference will be held before the trial begins.


When the parties of a wrongful death case cannot settle on a financial agreement then the case will typically be taken to trial. The attorney will demonstrate to the court how the role of the defendant contributed to the death of the deceased. If it’s determined that the defendant caused the death through negligence or intentional harm then the plaintiff will be awarded financial compensation based on the evidence presented in court. The trial can be lengthy and extensive. This is why it’s important for the party filing the suit to work with an experienced attorney that understands the entire legal procedure.


Following the suit, either party may file an appeal to have the case looked at by another court. An appeal would most likely follow a significant legal error in the trial.


The lawsuit has ended when an appeal has either been completed or when the time for an appeal has run out following the verdict. The plaintiff will the need to collect any damages that have been awarded. Should the defendant refuse to pay the damages awarded, then each state will have a procedure that allows the plaintiff to locate and collect as much of the damages as possible from the defendant’s assets.