William W. Hurst
Law Office of William W. Hurst, LLC
50 S. Meridian St., Suite 600, Indianapolis, IN 46204
When a bicyclist suffers death as a result of an accident, it’s normal for the family of the deceased to feel pain, suffering, and a desire for justice for their losses. If the person provided financial support to one or more dependents before the accident, this can also leave survivors in dire financial straits. While the party responsible for the death may or may not be facing criminal investigation or prosecution, in either case, families should consider speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney about whether a wrongful death claim may be wise.
Before you choose a legal advisor to help you and your family navigate the claims process, it’s important to address the immediate effects of the accident first. The death of a family member can leave a lasting trauma for survivors, and both self-care and care for loved ones is vital. Nevertheless, you can also exercise a few practices to help your attorney later on.
Following an accident, it is important to collect evidence in the case. This includes obtaining the accident report, documenting evidence, witnesses, and testimony, and providing the facts of the case to an attorney to decide whether a civil claim may be warranted. It’s vital to act quickly: evidence may be damaged or lost without a proper investigation, such as the destroyed bicycle, the clothing the victim wore on that day, or the statements of any witnesses. The more time that passes after the date of loss, the less likelihood there is to reconstruct the facts of the bicycle accident with certainty.
To bring your claim, you must first establish an estate for the deceased, and qualify as the personal representative of the victim. Indiana’s wrongful death statute determines your legal standing by the “something to lose” doctrine. It will be up to you to prove how you lost the support and services of the deceased. Additionally, under Indiana law, wrongful death claims must be made in the two years following the date of death.
In Indiana, the legal representative of the deceased’s estate must file a wrongful death lawsuit. This representative is appointed by the court and qualified survivors are typically the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, or siblings. Again, the “something to lose” doctrine dictates that the next of kin acting as legal representative must have lost support as a result of the victim’s death. An exception is made if the deceased is a child. In these cases, it is not necessary to open an estate. The child’s parents may file a wrongful death suit without preparing the necessary paperwork that is typically filed with the court.
First, it’s necessary to identify all potential parties who could be liable for damages. In wrongful death cases, the loss of a loved one has economically and emotionally devastating effects; often, pleading, proving, and collecting these damages can be complex. Once an attorney has identified a potentially responsible party based on the facts of the case, the next step is to begin preparing evidence of damages: economic losses due to the loss are typically easier to establish (such as the salary or benefits of the deceased), but losses like pain and suffering are challenging to quantify in economic terms. An experienced attorney will know the best way to support these claims, and maximize the odds of a successful settlement or judgment.
Often, defendants and/or insurers opt to settle out of court, but many cases do result in litigation. It’s important to retain an attorney who is both skilled at negotiation as well as prepared to argue a claim in the courtroom.
Consultations with our personal injury associates are free to the family of the deceased in wrongful death cases. Typically, we’ll first review the facts of the case, and explain our fee structure: we often represent a decedent’s family on a contingency fee basis, meaning there is no up-front cost to retain counsel. Rather, our attorneys collect our fees as a portion of any successful settlement or judgment.
When we agree to represent your family in a wrongful death case, we anticipate both best and worst case scenarios: we’ll undertake the responsibility for bringing the case all the way to trial, if need be. As the plaintiff, it’s your responsibility to meet the burden of proof. We must show compelling evidence that your family suffered losses due to the negligence or deliberate action of the at-fault party. Entrust this responsibility to an experienced attorney who understands what building an effective case requires.
In the vast majority of cases, there’s at least one insurance company with considerable resources for disputing our client’s claim. Defendants, and defendant’s insurers, will typically try to absolve themselves of responsibility for an accident. In many cases, they may try to refute the damages plead, and attempt to downplay the effects of the loss on the surviving family. Defendants may try to impart fault for the accident to the deceased. Regardless, insurers are well-financed, well-equipped, and highly skilled in refuting claims for damages: it’s vital to retain an advocate who knows how these companies work, and is ready to avoid the tricks, traps, and defenses liable parties may use to avoid paying compensation.
Fighting against these resources alone is an uphill battle, and a substantial challenge for family members already experiencing the effects of the loss of a loved one. Let our team of experienced, compassionate, and capable attorneys advocate for you: we’ll fight to hold responsible parties accountable so that you can focus on caring for yourself and your family. Though emotional recovery can take a lifetime, we may put you on the fast-track to financial recovery and remove some of the burdens you feel. Contact us at (317) 636-0808 or fill out our online form to set up your free consultation.
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