Wrongful Death

Procedure & Proof in Death Claims

When you’re confident that your loved one’s death was preventable and someone else’s fault, the best thing to do is call a wrongful death attorney. You might have a valid wrongful death case. But there are steps you should take in moving forward to give your family the best chance of winning compensation. Our team at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C., will thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death and gather evidence for your claim. You can reach us through our online form or by calling (312) 236-2900. We offer free, no-risk consultations.

Investigating the Fatal Circumstances

Negligence can arise in many types of situations, which will influence how your attorney investigates.

Types of wrongful death investigations include:

  • Car accident investigations: Your lawyer will thoroughly investigate the cause of the crash, including whether it was caused by one or more other drivers or a vehicle defect. Your attorney also will look for any evidence that your loved one contributed to the accident.
  • Criminal homicide investigations: Your lawyer will cooperate with the police while they investigate a potential murder or manslaughter. The criminal case is separate from your civil wrongful death claim. While a prosecutor might not pursue homicide charges, there might still be enough evidence to win a wrongful death suit based on negligent or reckless conduct.
  • Workplace accident investigations: Your attorney will investigate whether a coworker or the employer of your loved one was negligent.
  • Product liability investigations: Your attorney will investigate whether your loved one’s death was the result of a defective product. A dangerous product might have a design, manufacturing, or warning defect that the manufacturer or retailer is liable for.
  • Medical malpractice investigations: Your attorney will investigate whether a doctor, hospital, or other medical provider failed to maintain their professional standard of care when treating your loved one.

Methods of Investigating a Wrongful Death

There are many ways your lawyer can go about investigating your loved one’s death, including:

Gather medical records

When you believe your loved one’s death was the result of negligence, it’s imperative that you gather all of the medical records. In a wrongful death case, you’re required to show the other party’s negligence directly caused your relative’s death. You’ll need their medical records to show how their fatal injuries arose from the accident, malpractice, or violence.

Confirm cause of death

Your lawyer will verify the cause of death. Depending on how quickly you contact an attorney, it might be appropriate to seek a second autopsy. If the exact cause of your loved one’s death isn’t clear, or there’s doubt about the final report, this can create issues in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Obtain the police report

If the police filed a report after an accident or violent incident, your lawyer would get a copy of this report.

Gather photos or video

Your loved one’s accident might have been caught on camera. If so, your lawyer will do everything they can to get a copy of the footage. More likely, though, there are photos of the aftermath of the accident. Your attorney will gather all the available photos from you or other witnesses.

Get witness statements

It’s important to find out what happened from anyone who was there. Your attorney will reach out to the witnesses and ask for their statements. Some witnesses might talk with your lawyer voluntarily, while others won’t. After you file a lawsuit, your attorney can use depositions to gain more witness statements and find out what other people knew.

Get the vehicle looked over

If your loved one was in a car crash, then your lawyer will want the vehicle thoroughly looked over by an experienced mechanic. This isn’t to learn how much it would cost to repair the vehicle or whether it’s totaled. Your attorney wants to know about the vehicle damage, including where it’s damaged and to what extent. This is important information for an accident reconstruction expert who can analyze fault for a crash.

Hire experts

Your attorney knows the ins and outs of the law, but they don’t know how to calculate the speed of a vehicle at the time of a crash or what a cardiologist should do in certain circumstances. That’s why many wrongful death investigations involve hiring one or more experts to analyze the evidence and offer a highly educated and experienced opinion regarding fault. For example, in a car accident case, your lawyer might hire an accident reconstructionist. In a medical malpractice case, your attorney will hire an expert in the relevant area of medicine.

Should You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A lawyer will gather whatever evidence they can about your loved one’s death. A lot of important information isn’t available immediately. Businesses won’t hand over information about how they design their products. Doctors and hospitals won’t go in-depth about the choices they made with a patient when they don’t have to. But if the initial investigation uncovers sufficient evidence of negligence or recklessness, then you can move forward with a wrongful death lawsuit.

Investigate Through the Discovery Process

Once you’ve filed your complaint, served the defendant, and received the defendant’s response, the next step is discovery. This is the longest phase of litigation. During discovery, your lawyer uses several legal tools to confirm facts and get more information.

Interrogatories

Your lawyer can ask each defendant a certain number of questions. The defendant is required to answer each question truthfully or object to the question.

Requests for Admissions

It’s important to establish as many facts as early on in the case as possible. This limits the number of issues your attorney has to prove if you go to trial. Requests for admissions are statements that the defendant has to admit or deny.

Demands to Produce Documents, Objects, or Access to Property

Your attorney can demand that the defendant turn over important evidence that they control. This could be employee records, business documents, electronic data, and more.

Depositions

Your attorney can request or require that someone relevant to the case appear for out-of-court questioning. There are two types of depositions in Illinois. One is a discovery deposition, which is used to find out what different people knew. The second is an evidentiary deposition, which is used to establish a witness’s testimony, which you can submit or refer back to during trial.

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

Most wrongful death claims are based on negligence. Throughout an investigation, your attorney will look for evidence to prove four elements:

  • The defendant had a duty of care toward your relative.
  • The defendant violated their duty of care.
  • The defendant’s careless, reckless, or malicious conduct directly and proximately caused an accident.
  • Your relative was fatally injured in the accident.

How do you prove someone violated their duty of care? That depends on the circumstances. For an at-fault driver, it might be proof that they violated a traffic law by speeding or driving while intoxicated. For malpractice, an expert might testify that your general practitioner didn’t order tests and diagnose a condition that they could and should have caught. For a defective product, an expert might testify that the product didn’t come with warnings that are standard within the industry. Your attorney will talk with you and your family about the type of proof needed to convince a jury the defendant was negligent.

Talk with a Lawyer About Investigating Your Loved One’s Death

You might not be sure of whether you have a valid or strong wrongful death claim. Most families aren’t. It’s important to talk with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to investigate what led to your loved one’s death. An attorney can offer their professional opinion on whether you should pursue a wrongful death case and what a thorough investigation would look like.

Call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900, or contact us through our online form.

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(312) 236-2900
(312) 236-2900