The death of a loved one and the demands of settling the estate can stir up a great deal of raw emotion. Add to that the challenge of paying bills and making funeral and other arrangements, and surviving loved ones can feel understandably overwhelmed. At times like these, it is all too easy to act without thinking things through; however, the decisions you make now can have very real consequences should you ultimately decide to pursue a wrongful death claim.
Seeking advice from a wrongful death lawyer at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman will ensure you avoid these five common mistakes, therefore making it more likely for your family to prevail with your claim and receive the maximum compensation allowed by law.
Mistake #1: Going public
Depending on what happened to your loved one, you may be contacted to give a “public statement.” The local media may come knocking on your doorstep or an insurance adjuster may call to verify a few details. If there is even the smallest possibility that you may consider a wrongful death lawsuit in the future, avoid making any kind of statement, which can be later twisted, taken out of context, and used against you in court.
Mistake #2: Waiting
You may not welcome the added hassle of meeting with lawyers, obtaining documents, and giving statements in the immediate aftermath of a sudden, tragic death. However, the first few days and weeks can be especially crucial for evidence gathering. Often, legal teams need to visit the accident scene, consult with outside experts, obtain surveillance photos or other time-sensitive materials, and conduct exhaustive research into the cause of your loved one’s death – the sooner, the better! In places like Rockland County, NY and Bergen County, NJ, grieving family members typically only have two years from the date of death to secure their right to file a legal claim.
Mistake #3: Accepting an early payout
When unpaid medical bills, funeral costs, and burial expenses are mounting, it can be tempting to accept an insurance provider’s settlement offer. However, it is important to remember the insurer does not have your best interests at heart. They are looking to avoid litigation and to resolve the matter as quickly, quietly, and cost-effectively as possible. The initial offers from the insurance company will not take into account loss of companionship, guidance, consortium, and household services. They do not account for the loss of future wages, inheritances, or losses to society. They do not consider your loved one’s unfair pain and suffering when there was a lingering period prior to death.
Mistake #4: Family infighting
Some people may want to call a lawyer, while others may not. There may be petty squabbles over possessions within the estate, how to proceed with the arrangements, and unresolved conflicts brought to the surface. This is a difficult time, for sure, but it is important to put aside personal matters and do what is right in your loved one’s memory.
Presenting the case as a united front gives you the best chance of securing a larger settlement. It is possible for individual family members to hire their own lawyers and stake a claim, but in this case, you will not be made privy to what the others are offered and may not receive as much overall. Once the ball gets rolling, everyone who wants to pursue a claim must generally do so at the same time, as future lawsuits will not be allowed once the matter gets settled.
Mistake #5: Hiring the wrong attorney
To ensure success, you will need to make sure the legal team you hire has experience with wrongful death lawsuits in particular, as there are many subtle nuances in the law that could affect your claim.
You also want to make sure you will be working directly with an experienced wrongful death attorney, not passed off to paralegals and assistants when questions or concerns arise. You need to know your lawyer has the resources necessary to take on the case and win – even if that means representing your family’s interests in court. Skillful wrongful death attorneys do not ask for “upfront retainer fees,” but rather, work on a contingency basis so your family does not have to pay any money out-of-pocket and only owes a fee if money is recovered on your behalf.
Contact Kantrowitz, Goldhamer, & Graifman P.C. for a free case evaluation.