Wrongful death lawsuits can be complex legal matters. Depending on the cause of death, whether medical malpractice or an auto accident case for example, a thorough investigation is required in order to gather and preserve evidence as quickly as possible. Expert witnesses may be necessary to establish both who was at fault and what actually caused your loved one’s death. When it comes to proving damages, wrongful death cases can also be more complicated, often requiring experts to calculate future income and other types of damages. All of these elements will have an effect on whether wrongful death lawsuits settle.
What does it mean to settle?
Settlement is simply an agreement between parties of a claim or lawsuit to resolve the dispute on their own. In wrongful death and other personal injury cases, settlement will involve the defendant, or his insurance company, agreeing to pay the victim or family money in exchange for a release from liability. This means that, once compensation has been paid, the person with the claim can no longer pursue the claim, or must dismiss the lawsuit if it has already been filed. Nevertheless, a lawsuit can potentially be settled at any point.
Some wrongful death claims settle before filing a lawsuit
It is not uncommon for a wrongful death claim to settle out of court, before a lawsuit even needs to be filed in court. When liability is clear cut, often defendants are eager to settle quickly. For instance, if someone is killed in an auto accident and the police have established that the at-fault driver was drunk and ran a red light, causing the accident, then liability is likely easy to prove. The insurance company representing the at-fault driver may be willing to settle quickly, because they have little incentive to take the case to trial.
When insurance companies are hesitant to settle early
There are some situations where an insurance company may be more prone to delay settlement discussions in a wrongful death case. Whenever responsibility for an accident or injury is not really clear, or when the evidence suggests that the victim may have been partially at fault, the insurance company will feel they have more bargaining room. Also, when a damages claim looks to be rather substantial, the insurance company may want to hire its own experts to challenge the damages claim.
Delaying settlement can be a bargaining tactic
In some cases, insurance companies deliberately delay settlement negotiations, hoping that the family will eventually accept a smaller amount rather than continuing to wait for full compensation, which could take months or even years. Dragging out the negotiations may have the effect of wearing the family down, when all they want is for the case to be resolved.
If you have questions regarding injuries, or any other personal injury issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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