Five Things All Probate Attorneys Should Know about Wrongful Death Cases:
Wrongful death lawyers and probate lawyers often work together to protect their mutual clients’ legal rights. Below is a list of five insights regarding wrongful death cases that every probate lawyer should know:
- Losing a loved one is always painful. When the beloved dies due to the carelessness of another, that pain is often amplified because of the injustice. The survivors often suffer from psychotic breaks or turn to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain. It’s critical to guide them to grief counselors as soon as possible so they can deal with the pain in a healthy manner. I highly recommend having referral relationships with grief counselors who understand the complexities of losing a loved one due to the negligence of another and can step in quickly to help ease the client’s suffering. For clients who are religious, I would encourage them to seek solace from their church or religious leader in addition to the grief counselor. From a legal perspective, grief counselors and clergy members often become your clients’ best witnesses in the wrongful death case.
- Evidence of your clients’ damages in a wrongful death case begins accumulating as soon as the survivors learn about the loss. Everything that happens immediately after becomes a story that is told to insurance carriers and sometimes to juries to illustrate the severity of your client’s loss. To preserve evidence related to your clients’ damages, your clients must consult an experienced wrongful death attorney as early as possible. For instance, I highly recommend recording and photographing the memorial services because those recordings and photographs often provide critical evidence in the wrongful death case. I also recommend that my clients begin journaling as soon as possible to help deal with the pain and document it. And I prefer if my client keeps the deceased’s belongings undisturbed while the wrongful death case is pending. There are also many pitfalls that clients should avoid, such as posting on social media or starting a Go Fund Me Campaign. Those actions could seriously harm the prospects of the wrongful death case.
- If your client was involved in a car crash in Florida, there is a $5,000 death benefit on all PIP policies that can help pay for funeral or other expenses. If you refer a wrongful death case to a wrongful death lawyer, you can often collect a 25% referral fee. The wrongful death lawyer may also advance court costs and expenses of litigation related to the probate case. Florida Bar Rule 4-1.8(e)(1).
- If your client’s loved one suffered an accidental death, there might be a viable wrongful death case even if the deceased was clearly at fault for the accident. I’ve had multiple cases where we’ve recovered millions of dollars for clients who were clearly at fault due to Florida’s comparative negligence laws. It might be wise to review your caseload for the last two years to see if any of the cases involved accidental deaths.
- In situations where there are multiple survivors, it’s best to encourage the survivors to choose an independent personal representative of the estate. There is an inherent conflict of interest when one of the beneficiaries of the estate is also named its personal representative. Choosing an independent personal representative helps avoid a host of problems.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to call me anytime at (850)777-7777.
Wrongful Death Attorney
Fasig Brooks Law Offices