When a loved one passes away due to someone else’s negligence or intentional actions, it can be devastating for your family. Surviving family members may have the right to bring a wrongful death claim against the defendant.
Understandably, many clients want to know how long does a wrongful death case take to resolve? Well, the answer is that it depends. Some claims may resolve within a few weeks or a couple of months. Others could take a year or longer to resolve.
Hiring legal advocates like the California wrongful death attorneys at Wells Call Injury Lawyers, can help keep your claim on track. We start by conducting a thorough independent investigation of the facts surrounding the accident.
With some claims, the police investigation may be clear enough for the insurance company to accept responsibility.
For example, with an accident involving a drunk driver, the blood test and eyewitness accounts may be sufficient for the insurance company to agree to settle.
In other cases, it will take more work before the insurance company is willing to step up and accept any responsibility.
Reasons Your Wrongful Death Claim May Take Longer to Resolve
Even when your attorney conducts an independent investigation, there is no guarantee the defendant’s insurance company will accept the findings. Their goal is always to reduce their exposure and minimize their payout.
The defendant’s insurance adjuster will try to place additional blame on your deceased family member or argue about the value of your claim. Since your family member is not there to tell their side of the story, this could make your wrongful death claim take longer to resolve.
When there is disputed liability or the facts of the accident aren’t entirely clear, it can delay the claim as well. Perhaps we will need to go back and interview witnesses again or hire one or more experts.
Hiring experts is common in wrongful death claims where liability is unclear or questionable. Someone like an accident reconstructionist can come in and look at the case to determine how the accident most likely occurred.
This person’s findings can be crucial in getting the defendant’s insurance company to agree to resolve the case. In cases involving complex loss of earnings, it may be necessary to hire a vocational expert or economist who can assist in reaching a value.
Another cause of delay involves a breakdown in negotiations. The value of a wrongful death claim is often in dispute. While you feel your case is worth one dollar amount, the insurance company likely sees your claim as having a much lower value. Going back and forth in negotiations can take a while, resulting in a delay.
When the defendant’s insurance company won’t accept liability or there is a serious breakdown in negotiations, your case will likely end up in litigation.
Negotiations are typically ongoing during the initial discovery phase of litigation. At some point, the court may require you to participate in some type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation. And if all else fails, your lawyer may need to prepare your case for trial.
No two cases, even those that have similar facts, will resolve within the exact same timeframe. There are simply too many variables. When you meet with an attorney at Wells Call Injury Lawyers, we go over the facts and discuss what a possible timeline might look like in your specific case.
Reasons an Insurance Company Might Try to Settle Quickly
It’s understandable that you and your family may need money quickly in a wrongful death case. However, insurance companies know that and sometimes use that to their advantage. Be cautious about insurance adjusters who want to resolve your claim too quickly.
Many adjusters start out by offering a settlement that is far below what you are entitled to. They want to close their files and move on to other cases. You might accept an offer because you need money right now, only to discover that it’s not nearly enough to cover what you lost.
Because of your loved one’s death, you may have lost income or other valuable services your family member provided. So be wary of accepting an offer made quickly. Once you agree to the settlement and sign a release of all claims, you can never go back and ask for additional compensation.
The insurance company may also try to resolve your claim early when liability is obvious. With no incentive to fight your claim or take it to trial, the adjuster may swiftly agree to a settlement.
And lastly, if your case is small, the insurance company might try to resolve it quickly. There is no point in keeping a small claim open. For instance, when the deceased was already retired and not earning any more income, the settlement amount may be low. Therefore, it is simpler to agree quickly and close the case.
Reasons the Insurance Company Might Want to Delay Resolving a Wrongful Death Claim
On the flip side, you may encounter situations where the insurance company is directly responsible for your claim taking longer to resolve. They may drag out negotiations in the hopes that you won’t get an attorney.
The adjuster may be relying on the fact that there’s only a short statute of limitations left. If you miss the filing deadline, they will be under no obligation to pay you any compensation.
And in cases where the wrongful death claim is for a substantial amount of money, they are not going to be in any hurry to pay the claim.
Instead, they will hire their own team of experts to review the case and come up with a dollar figure, one likely significantly less than you’re asking for.
Contact a California Wrongful Death Lawyer
Wrongful death claims are notoriously complicated. You may be missing out on the compensation you and your family are owed if you try to represent yourself.
Instead, let the skilled California wrongful death lawyers at Wells Call Injury Lawyers assist you. We have nearly four decades of experience handling personal injury claims. To date, we’ve successfully recovered over a half-billion dollars for our clients.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation at one of our seven Northern California offices.