Top Questions to Ask Before Hiring A Wrongful Death Attorney

By VSCP LAW

If you believe a loved one has died as the result of someone else’s actions or omissions, you may have a wrongful death case. Before you hire a wrongful death attorney in Philadelphia, you should plan ahead so you can gather the information you need to make the best decision. The following are the top questions you should ask before hiring a wrongful death attorney:

Do I have a Wrongful Death Claim?

It may seem obvious, but the first question you should ask is whether you even have a case. It’s important that you, as a client, understand the basics of the law and what information is necessary to provide in order for your attorney to prove the wrongful death claim. In order for the wrongful death lawyer to answer this question, you must provide as much information as you can about the circumstances before, during, and after your loved one died.

How long do I have to file a lawsuit after my loved one dies in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, the Estate of a deceased person only has two years after the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This time limit is called a statute of limitations. Thus, it’s essential to give your wrongful death attorney the accurate date of death so that they can properly advise you as to whether you can file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations.

What experience do you have working on wrongful death cases?

Despite aggressive advertising to the contrary, many attorneys do not actually have experience working on wrongful death cases. Many law firms list “wrongful death” on their websites because they want people to come to them with wrongful death cases, but they don’t actually have any significant experience trying wrongful death cases in front of a jury. Before you hire a wrongful death attorney in Philadelphia, ask that attorney what actual experience they have working on a wrongful death case.

Please provide examples of wrongful death cases you’ve worked on and successfully tried to verdict or settlement.

This is related to the above question, but you should state it separately because this request for specific information will help you distinguish between attorneys who may have worked on a handful of wrongful death cases in Philadelphia and attorneys who have worked on hundreds of wrongful death cases in Philadelphia. And not only should you request examples of wrongful death cases the attorney has tried, you should request to know the outcomes of these cases. Perhaps the wrongful death attorney has tried 50 wrongful death cases, but only 10 of them were actually successful (as in, resulted in monetary compensation for the plaintiff). Not only do you want an attorney who has tried many wrongful death cases, but you want an attorney who has tried many wrongful death cases successfully.

Do I have to pay you money to work on my wrongful death case?

You should find wrongful death attorneys who will take your case on a contingency basis. That means that the attorney gets paid contingent on the case being successful (either winning a plaintiff’s verdict at trial or receiving a payment through a negotiated settlement agreement). In a contingent-based case, you don’t pay any money to the attorney to try your wrongful death case. When the case resolves in a successful verdict or settlement, only then is the attorney paid a percentage of the verdict or settlement amount.

Who will be handling my wrongful death case on a day-to-day basis?

Some firms will send their top, most experienced attorneys to handle initial meetings with clients, but then will have an inexperienced associate or paralegal handle the case on a day-to-day basis. You want an attorney who knows both the ins and outs of your case and who is available to talk to if you have a question on a daily basis.

Have you ever had cases that were featured in the media?

Some wrongful death cases are considered high-profile or feature a public interest element, such that media (newspaper journalists, local or national news reporters, etc) would want to cover details of the case. You want a law firm that feels comfortable communicating with the media and understands what they should say and what they should not say. A wrongful death lawyer who has good experience communicating with media knows how to:

  • protect the privacy of the client;
  • avoid disclosing information “off the record” while actually being recorded;
  • discuss the case in a way that does not harm the outcome of the case;
  • speak plainly (avoiding “legal speak”) so that a national audience can understand the issues;
  • spot reporters’ “tricks” and avoid saying something “headline worthy” that actually harms the case.

What damages can I recover for my wrongful death claim?

An experienced wrongful death attorney can evaluate the information in front of them and, based on years of experience, make a reasonable estimation of how much a client may recover for their wrongful death claim. Of course, while the attorney is not able to predict an exact dollar amount, the attorney will likely give a range.

If you believe you or a loved one has died as the result of someone else’s actions or omissions, contact VSCP Law at www.vscplaw.com.

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