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4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Wrongful Death Attorney

Every year in the United States, roughly 300,000 people become victims of wrongful death. Unintentional medical injuries, falls, motor vehicle accidents, and poisoning are the leading causes of wrongful death.

If another party caused the unintentional death of your loved one, you might be able to get compensation for a variety of damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

However, these cases are usually complex, which is why you must hire a wrongful death attorney. There are thousands of attorneys to choose from and the quality of your attorney can make or break the case.

This guide outlines some of the key things to consider when picking an attorney for wrongful death cases.

1. Specialization in Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death cases fall under the practice of personal injury attorneys. This means any injury attorney can take up the case and offer you the services you need.

But will those services be the best? If the injury attorney doesn’t specialize in wrongful death cases, there’s a good chance you won’t get your money’s worth.

Injury cases are never easy, but it doesn’t get harder than a wrongful death case. Even when a case appears to be clear-cut, the burden of proof lies on you. You need to collect and provide a lot of sound evidence to prove that (and how) the at-fault party caused the accident.

An attorney who specializes in wrongful death lawsuits is familiar with the relevant laws and case procedures. They’re in a better position to advise you on who can file such a case, according to the state’s laws.

On the other hand, an attorney who doesn’t focus on wrongful death cases might need to research and consult with attorneys to answer your specific questions.

2. Vast Experience

If you’ve already found an attorney who only works on wrongful death cases, thumbs up. Specialization alone isn’t enough to make them an ideal lawyer for you, though.

Experience matters.

Ask the attorney how long they’ve practiced as a wrongful death attorney, as well as the number of cases/lawsuits they’ve tackled.

You want to see a high number of cases. This is proof that several clients have so far trusted them with their cases.

It’s also important to look at the outcome of those cases. You’ll be more confident hiring an attorney who has won most of the wrongful death cases they have prosecuted.

3. Active License to Practice

Stories of fake lawyers swindling unsuspecting clients aren’t uncommon. When you’ve lost a loved one, you might not be in emotional turmoil, which makes you more vulnerable to scammers posing as attorneys.

An effective way to tell fake attorneys from real attorneys is to check their licenses. Most state bars have online tools anyone can use to verify an attorney’s license.

During verification, look at how long the license is to expire. Most states require attorneys to renew their licenses annually. It’s not advisable to pick an attorney whose license is close to expiry.

What if they choose not to renew their license while your case is ongoing? Or perhaps their renewal application could be rejected or delayed.

In either case, you’ll have no choice but to find a new attorney, which is a huge setback. An unlicensed attorney can give you legal advice, but they cannot represent you in a court of law.

There are also cases where an attorney can be licensed, but be unable to pursue your case in court. This usually happens when the suit is filed in a court that’s in a different state.

To illustrate, let’s assume you’re a New York resident, as was your deceased loved one. The deceased met their wrongful death in Arizona. In this case, it’s the courts in AZ that have jurisdiction over the case, so that’s where you will file the suit.

You can hire a New York licensed attorney to advise you, but they won’t file the case in AZ – unless they are also licensed to practice in AZ. You need to hire a wrongful death attorney who practices in AZ.

As such, if your loved one died in another state or the at-fault party resides in another state, understand how that situation will affect your choice of attorneys.

4. Cost of Service

There are wrongful death lawyers who have pro bono services, but it’s unlikely that you’ll find such a lawyer to take up your case. You’re certainly prepared to pay for the service. What you don’t know is how much you’ll pay.

Typically, wrongful death attorneys, like most personal injury attorneys, charge a contingency fee. This is a fee that’s pegged to the outcome of the case.

Successful wrongful death cases result in a financial settlement. Your attorney will take a percentage of that amount. The industry average is 33 percent, but it can be higher or lower depending on the nature of the case.

In addition, there may be other expenses and costs involved, including expert witness fees, private investor fees, and filing fees.

Having a clear picture of the total cost of the service will put you in a better position to pick a wrongful death lawyer you can afford.

Hire the Right Wrongful Death Attorney for Your Case

Death is life’s most stressful event, no doubt. The pain is greater when a person dies because of another party’s negligence. If you’re in this situation, a great way to honor the deceased’s life is to pursue a wrongful death case against the at-fault party.

Use these tips to hire a wrongful death attorney who can help you take the fight to the at-fault party – and win.

Keep reading the law section of our blog for more helpful pieces of advice.

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