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How Long Does a Wrongful Death Case Take to Settle?

August 26, 2023 Legal Team

When a loved one’s life is tragically cut short due to the negligence of another party, a wrongful death case can offer a small sense of justice for grieving families. However, navigating the legal process can feel overwhelming and lengthy for those in the midst of their pain. But how long does it actually take to settle? It’s helpful to understand what a wrongful death claim is and what factors affect the timeline. 

How Long Does a Wrongful Death Case Take to Settle

Understanding Wrongful Death Cases

A wrongful death claim arises when an individual dies because of an individual’s or entity’s neglectful or intentional conduct:

“When death of a person is caused by wrongful act, neglect or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action to recover damages in respect thereof, then, and in every such case, the person who or the corporation which would have been liable if death had not ensued shall be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, and although the death was caused under such circumstances as amount in law to murder in the first or second degree or manslaughter.”

Examples could include medical negligence, car accidents, slip and falls, and workplace incidents. 

Wrongful death cases are typically initiated by immediate family members claiming compensation for medical costs incurred as well as lost wages and funeral costs:

“An action for wrongful death shall be brought by and in the name of the surviving husband or wife, child, parent or guardian, or personal representative of the deceased person for and on behalf of the surviving husband or wife, children or parents, or if none of these survive, on behalf of the decedent’s estate.”

Factors Affecting the Timeline of a Wrongful Death Case

Several factors can influence the duration of a wrongful death lawsuit, most commonly including the following: 

Complexity of the Case

The more complex the claim, the longer it usually takes. Multiple parties involved or intricate circumstances surrounding the cause of death can extend proceedings.

Investigation and Evidence Collection

An extensive investigation is essential when building a strong wrongful death case, including gathering medical records, interviewing witnesses, and consulting expert witnesses who can definitively link negligent parties’ acts with the victim’s death. Compilation of comprehensive evidence could take weeks or even many months in some cases.

The Discovery Process

The discovery phase involves both sides sharing evidence gathered by exchanging documents, conducting depositions, and completing interrogatories. This process may last many months and has an enormous effect on how a case develops and how long it can take. Delays often arise during this stage.

How Willing Both Parties Are to Settle

While most wrongful death cases settle out of court, the negotiation process can be time-consuming. The readiness of both parties involved to come to a fair agreement plays an integral role in determining how long the case might take. A speedy settlement commonly occurs when both sides are amenable to resolving the matter quickly outside of court.

Helpful Tips for Navigating a Wrongful Death Settlement

To expedite your wrongful death settlement, consider following the following:

  1. Work With an Experienced Attorney: Their expertise ensures efficient handling of legal proceedings, proactively addressing any potential hurdles that might delay your case.
  2. Timely Action: Immediate initiation of the claim is crucial. A quick response helps in preserving valuable evidence and witness accounts, saving time during the investigative phase. It will also ensure that you don’t miss the statute of limitations

“Except as provided in section 12-551 there shall be commenced and prosecuted within two years after the cause of action accrues, and not afterward, the following actions:

  1. For injuries done to the person of another including causes of action for medical malpractice as defined in section 12-561.
  2. For injuries done to the person of another when death ensues from such injuries, which action shall be considered as accruing at the death of the party injured.”
  3. Meticulous Organization: Having all relevant documents meticulously organized will expedite the process, allowing them to be accessible when necessary. 
  4. Open Communication: Maintain regular interactions with your attorney; discussing each step helps prevent misunderstandings, which could end up slowing down progress.
  5. Cooperative Negotiations: A willingness to engage cooperatively during settlement negotiations could lead to quicker resolution, so be willing to compromise. 

As you can see, the timeline of a wrongful death settlement will vary based on several factors. For help with a claim, don’t hesitate to contact our Phoenix wrongful death attorneys to schedule a free consultation.