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How do I Choose the Best Wrongful Death Attorney?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are four items to look for when selecting the best wrongful death attorney: reputation, style of practicing law, cost and size of the law practice. A wrongful death attorney is a trained lawyer who specializes in lawsuits filed in civil court when someone has been killed by the actions of another person or entity. Every country has laws and procedures that are used to determine who is responsible, if anyone, when someone dies. The purpose of a wrongful death suit is to obtain financial compensation for the family when there is an unnatural death. The ability to sue in court for financial compensation must be written into the law and is not found in every country.

The decision to hire a wrongful death attorney usually occurs within six months after the death occurs. During this period, the family members might be emotionally distraught and need to get honest, reliable advice about the options available, the strength of the case and the potential costs. The most practical advice is to avoid any wrongful death attorney who advertises settlements for everyone. The details of each case are unique and must be reviewed before deciding if there is actually a case.

The best way to find out about the reputation of a wrongful death attorney is to talk with other people in the same industry. For example, ask the estate lawyer, the undertaker or the law society for a reference. If selecting a lawyer based on an advertisement, call the law society and check if there have been any formal complaints to the discipline board about the lawyer.

Make a list of two or three potential attorneys and arrange for an initial consultation, which usually is free. Ask questions about how often each attorney's cases go to trial and how many are settled out of court. Talk about the options available for resolving the dispute and ask for the attorney's professional opinion. Some attorneys prefer to go to trial, and others are more inclined to settle through negotiation. Discuss the risks and benefits associated with both approaches before selecting an attorney or an option.

During the initial consultation, ask for an estimate of the cost. Some attorneys require a retainer, which is a fixed amount of money paid up front to hire the lawyer. Others charge a certain percentage of the amount collected. Review the options, and understand that a percentage of the settlement usually is the more expensive option.

Look at the size of the law firm and the number of people on the support staff, and ask the attorney how many cases he or she works on simultaneously. A wrongful death suit requires a significant amount of time and effort. Avoid a wrongful death attorney with a heavy caseload, because most the work will be allocated to more junior attorneys or law students.

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Discussion Comments

By Logicfest — On Apr 30, 2014

@Logicfest -- that's not always true. A small firm with a talented attorney who has posted a positive win-loss ratio in wrongful death agencies might be better than the big firm down the street that some might find impersonal.

Regardless, point of the article is sound -- if you have a wrongful death case, do some research and find the lawyer who you are confident will treat your case with the attention you believe it deserves and who history has shown will likely win the case.

By Markerrag — On Apr 29, 2014

One cannot stress enough how important it is for someone with a wrongful death claim to look at the size of the law firm. It is a common tactic in wrongful death cases for the defendant's attorneys to "paper" the plaintiff like crazy with discovery requests, interrogatories and other tactics that some allege are used to wear down the plaintiff so the matter will settle quickly and in a way that pleases the defendant.

An office that doesn't have a good support staff can get drowned in that paperwork in a hurry and the attorney working the case might be more inclined to settle than do deal with the claim.

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