How Long Do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Take?

January 12, 2024 / RP Legal

If your loved one died in an accident caused by someone else’s actions, you’d likely file a wrongful death lawsuit. You will need to prepare yourself for a lengthy legal process.

While a wrongful death lawyer could never give you a precise estimate of how long a wrongful death lawsuit may take, you can expect the process to last for a considerable amount of time. Realistically, your family should fight until you get everything you deserve for your loss. The Columbia, SC attorneys at Rikard & Protopapas will be there with you every step of the way, fighting for justice for your family.

The Timeframe for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The timing of a wrongful death case is one thing that you cannot and do not control. The timeline of a wrongful death suit depends on both the court and whether the insurance company is being reasonable in settlement negotiations.

Court cases are rarely completed in less than one year. The judge will set the schedule not long after you file your lawsuit complaint in the case. Milestones in your case would include:

  • The defendant gets 30 days to file an answer to your complaint (and can even seek an extension from the court).
  • The defendant will file a motion to dismiss the case that the judge will consider.
  • The discovery process can last for many months, as each side seeks to gather evidence from the other.
  • Both parties may file motions for summary judgment after the close of discovery.

Usually, you should expect the trial process to last 12–18 months from start to finish. If you win your case in court, the defendant may file an appeal, which can add more time to your case.

Should a Wrongful Death Case Settle or Go to Trial?

Most wrongful death cases will reach a settlement without going all the way to trial. Realistically, you would only proceed to trial in two instances:

  • If the insurance company denies your claim entirely and will not pay anything.
  • They are offering insufficient money, either because they believe that your case is worth less, or they are partially blaming your loved one for what happened.

Settlement is a quicker way to get money for your case, but it may not happen right away. You may need to go through much of the lawsuit process before you can actually reach an agreement. The insurance company is often not motivated to settle your case until they see the strength of your evidence, and you get closer to trial.

The insurance company often believes that time is on their side in any personal injury case. They are the ones with the money in their account, and they know you need it. However, you need to be prepared to hold out until you get what you deserve. If it means that you have to go all the way to trial, that is what you must be ready for in your case.

What May Lengthen a Wrongful Death Case

While the court is what sets the schedule, there are factors that can make your case take longer, including:

  • There may be a longer schedule for a more complex case.
  • Higher dollar value cases may take longer to litigate and settle.
  • You may try to negotiate with the insurance company before you file the case in court.
  • Your attorney would need more time to investigate a case that is very fact-intensive.
  • The judge could have other cases on their docket that force them to change the schedule in your case.

It is essential that you remain as patient as possible while your case is pending. There is little that you can do to move things forward. The best that you can hope for is that your attorney will keep the legal pressure on the defendant, and they may settle your case more quickly. Nonetheless, you need to be prepared to go the distance if it is necessary.

Why You Need to Start Your Wrongful Death Case Now

The court will not adjust the timetable for your case because you started later.

The court’s schedule reflects the judge’s own docket and caseload. The judge, along with rules of civil procedure, will determine the key milestones on the schedule.

The one thing that you can control in your case is when you contact an attorney. Your lawyer will then begin the legal process for you. They will begin by investigating what happened and building evidence that can support your case.

Your attorney will also estimate the value of your family’s damages, so you know how much to seek in the case. Wrongful death damages reflect what your family has lost, so it may take some time to measure how you have suffered. You cannot file a complaint that is not well-supported because you risk having your lawsuit dismissed without even reaching trial.

Your attorney may try to negotiate with the insurance company before they even file a lawsuit. They need time to do their job. The last thing that you want is for your lawyer to be in a rush when filing your case.

While time is a factor in wrongful death cases, money should not be. A wrongful death lawyer will work for you on a contingency basis, meaning that they do not ask for money out of your pocket. They are only paid if and when you win your wrongful death lawsuit.

Contact a Columbia, SC Wrongful Death Attorney Today

There is little peace of mind for you and your family when you have tragically lost a loved one. The best thing that you can do for your family is promptly hire a tough attorney to at least handle all the details of the legal process. At Rikard & Protopapas, we will aggressively pursue your wrongful death case, allowing your family to focus on grieving and healing. You can begin your case by calling us today at 803-978-6111 or by sending us a message online to schedule your free initial consultation.

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