A lawsuit for the death of a loved one is likely something you want to get behind you quickly. There may be opportunities to settle your case and end it more quickly, but these opportunities do not always result in complete compensation and may leave your family struggling. It is important to have an attorney represent you in this process to ensure that you get the full benefits you are entitled to to help you and your family after a family member dies in an accident. Our Fayetteville wrongful death lawyers might be able to help you with your case and advise you on whether or not to accept a settlement offer for wrongful death.
When dealing with the death of a loved one, the last thing anyone wants to do is be involved in a lengthy legal proceeding. However, if you lose your family’s financial provider or primary caregiver, the loss will have a rippling effect that will last a lifetime. You only have one opportunity to settle a wrongful death case. While a quick settlement might seem like the right thing, you do not want the time length to be the motivating factor. Depending on the underlying accident, it could take months or years to receive what you and your family deserve. Remember, once you settle a claim, you do not get another bite of the pie.
Our Springdale wrongful death lawyers understand the pain you are going through. We provide professional and full service so you can concentrate on your grief. When you lose a loved family member because of another’s negligence, you want to ensure you and your family are properly compensated. Call our office at (479) 316-0438 to review your options.
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Arkansas?
How long it takes to settle a wrongful death claim depends on many factors. The underlying accident will impact the length of time it takes to investigate and settle a claim. Questions of fault will also increase how long it takes to settle a case. When a defendant alleges that they were not at fault or that your loved one’s conduct significantly contributed to their death, settlement negotiations often stall. Valuing your claim also takes time. You want to ensure you are fully compensated for your loss. Placing a dollar figure on your loss takes time, especially if they were young and had a full and productive life ahead of them.
Wrongful death claims do not settle overnight. They could take years to finally come to a conclusion. If you want to maximize your potential compensation, you should expect a case to last anywhere from one to four years. No matter the underlying cause, three important factors will affect the length of your case.
A wrongful death claim is basically a personal injury claim where the plaintiff died because of their injuries. Liability is the legal term to describe how much a person or entity is at fault for the death. In some cases, liability is contested. While in others, liability is shared between the defendant and the deceased. The percentage of a person’s liability could affect the compensation awarded. An insurance company will often dispute the percentage of their client’s fault to reduce its financial liability. Proving liability is often the most challenging part of a wrongful death claim.
If you broke your arm in a car accident, it is fairly easy to calculate your damages. You should be reimbursed for your medical expenses, any lost time at work, and your pain and suffering. However, damages in a wrongful death claim are much more complicated. For example, how do you calculate the income a person would have earned if they lived? You have to factor in their age, their education, their current skill level, and the reasonable path their career would have taken. Then there are the more abstract damages, such as loss of companionship. What is a lifetime of guidance worth to a five-year-old child if their father is killed? Our Sebastian County wrongful death lawyers will carefully estimate these damages, providing supporting evidence, while an insurance company will spend its time and energy contesting them.
If you are forced to litigate your case, it will slow down your settlement significantly. In heavily contested matters, going to trial might be the only way to receive a fair recovery. In many situations, the threat of litigation or the filing of a lawsuit pushes an insurer towards a reasonable offer. However, if the matter is still contested, it could take months or years to get your day in court.
HOW LONG DOES A WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT TAKE IN AR?
The processes involved in filing a wrongful death lawsuit starts with filing the case, then gathering and exchanging evidence before the trial starts. The trial itself is often one of the quickest parts of the case and will usually take no more than a week. However, for serious, complex cases like pharmaceutical litigation or medical malpractice cases, the trial itself could go on for 7-10 business days. These other two steps, filing and “discovery” (evidence exchange), can each take many months to complete.
When you file your initial claim with the court, you must also serve the defendant with a copy of the complaint. After this, the defendant has a chance to argue against the claim as a matter of law. Usually, their filings with the court will state that the claim you made should be dismissed for various reasons, often arguing that they did nothing wrong or that the facts you alleged favor them. Courts often cannot decide the case at this stage, and the case progresses. However, this process may sharpen or clarify the specific accusations of misconduct or negligence that led to the death in question.
Once the case is in the discovery phase, each side will send the other interrogatories and requests for evidence. In injury and wrongful death cases, this usually means performing and submitting to depositions. In cases where you were not involved with the accident, such as most wrongful death cases, the defense may not have any questions to ask you about the incident itself. Still, you could be asked to answer questions about the effects your loved one’s death had on you regarding financial burdens and costs.
Because depositions can take time to schedule and you must give important witnesses the time they need to prepare, these can actually be the largest time requirement in any case. Most depositions last for a few hours, but detailed depositions could actually take multiple meetings over the course of a few days. These depositions are vital to getting the information you need for trial.
How Long Does Filing and Evidence Exchange Take in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Arkansas, you have three years to file a wrongful lawsuit. Therefore, you could negotiate with an insurance company for years before contacting an attorney. We firmly advise against this. First, you want an experienced attorney handling any negotiations with an insurer. Furthermore, you want to begin investigating and building your case as soon as possible. You should enter every negotiation with the idea that you are prepared to go to trial.
How your loved one was killed will impact how long it takes to file a complaint and exchange evidence. If the deceased was a pedestrian struck by a drunk driver ignoring a red light, then investigating the incident and preparing the complaint will take a relatively short amount of time. However, if your loved one was killed in a multi-vehicle accident involving a commercial truck, it will take much longer to determine what occurred and who should be held responsible.
Similarly, exchanging evidence will take much longer under these circumstances. In the drunk driving case, our office might review the defendant’s driving record, examine the police report, and question any witnesses who saw the accident. Alternatively, when a death involves a commercial truck and other drivers, our Fort Smith wrongful death attorneys and our experts will have significantly more work to do, including:
- Investigate the crash scene
- Examine the vehicles
- Reconstruct the accident
- Request records including, maintenance records, company training policies, training manuals, electronic records from the truck, the driver’s driving history, and other pertinent documents
- Question witnesses, other drivers, and any passengers
While this will take a considerable amount of time, it is necessary to hold the responsible party or parties liable for your loved one’s death.
IS SETTLING A LAWSUIT FASTER THAN TRIAL?
In an attempt to save the time and effort of going to trial, many injury victims and their families settle their cases. When you settle a lawsuit, you accept whatever offer the defendant or their insurance company makes in exchange for dropping the claim. Cases can be settled “in court” or “out of court,” and may be settled at any point in the process. However, this does not always mean that the outcome is as high as it would be at trial, and some settlements can still take nearly as long as trial.
A settlement can take place before the case is filed in the first place. When this happens, settlement offers are usually low and may not cover your full needs. Because you have not had time to investigate the claim or fully attempt to enforce your rights in court, lawyers usually advise against taking these early offers. In any case, you should have your attorney review the offer to see if it satisfies your needs.
Once the case is in progress, you may have a better idea of what evidence is available and how difficult it will be to prove your case. If your case is difficult to prove, a settlement might be necessary to ensure that you walk away with at least something. This means waiting until you are already in the process of exchanging evidence in discovery – or until you have already completed discovery.
Judges often push parties to try to negotiate a settlement, since settlement saves the court time and resources by skipping the trial process. Settlements overseen by a judge often occur any time up until the first day of trial, and some settlements may occur while the trial is in progress.
At the very latest, you may actually be able to settle a case while the jury is deliberating on the case, or even after the jury has handed down a verdict.
Because it takes time to get the information you need to make an informed decision about your settlement, settlements do not always happen quickly or simply. They are not always the “easy way out” of a case or a quick route to recovery, and you should never settle a case without speaking to a lawyer first.
Should I Settle My Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Court or Out of Court?
Our Arkansas wrongful death attorneys are asked many types of questions. A common one is, “should I settle a wrongful death claim or file a lawsuit?” The answer to this question depends on the circumstances surrounding your case, your need for money, and your desire to prolong the process.
One way to speed up the process is to accept a settlement offer. For example, if your loved one was killed in a truck accident, the trucking company’s insurer might offer you a settlement. If you are comfortable with the amount, you can receive a monetary award without going through the process of thoroughly investigating your case. After the emotional trauma of an unexpected and violent death, many grieving family members just want to move on.
However, if you want to receive the compensation you deserve, you should retain our Crawford County wrongful death attorneys. Our office will value the financial value of your claim and evaluate its legal strength. Hiring an attorney does not mean your case is going to trial. It just ensures you have an experienced negotiator working on your behalf.
Going to trial is usually the last resort when pursuing a wrongful death claim. Going to trial differs from filing a lawsuit. In many cases, a lawsuit is filed to force an insurance company’s hand. Putting an insurer in the position to incur the expenses of defending a lawsuit often results in a more reasonable settlement offer – especially if the facts and evidence are in your favor.
In cases where an insurer is adamant about settling your case, you might have to go to trial. This usually happens when the defense is alleging no liability or fault.
FAYETTEVILLE WRONGFUL DEATH LAWYER OFFERING FREE CONSULTATIONS
If a family member was killed in a car accident, died from a traumatic brain injury, or passed away because of another serious accident, call our Fayetteville personal injury lawyers today. To schedule a confidential consultation, call (479) 316-0438 today.