The Role of a Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer in Wrongful Death Cases 

Posted: January 31, 2024

Losing a loved one is devastating – especially if the death is wrongfully caused by the negligence or recklessness of another.  

No court case or amount of money can ever bring someone back, but the process does have the potential to provide a sense of closure, restore economic losses, and achieve a sense of accountability.  

When someone loses a close family member on New York roads because of another’s negligence, a personal representative of the estate may be entitled to file a wrongful-death claim for damages. A New York wrongful-death attorney from William Mattar P.C. can help guide you through the process.  

Role of a Wrongful Death Attorney 

The role of a wrongful-death attorney is to advocate on behalf of the estate, through an appointed personal representative, to ensure maximum compensation. A wrongful death lawsuit cannot be filed unless a personal representative is appointed by the court. An experienced attorney can help start this process, ensuring that the personal representative was validly appointed and the complaint—which is a legal paper that commences a wrongful death lawsuit—states a cause of action for wrongful death.  

The complaint must contain certain information to avoid dismissal. Before a complaint is composed or “framed,” the attorney will need to identify potentially liable parties and research the different theories of liability that can be pursed. These theories of liability can vary from ordinary negligence to products liability. Not all theories of liability are immediately apparent, and some may entail investigation by the attorney. For example, if the crash was partially caused by a product malfunction—such as a defective seatbelt—the manufacturer of that product may be responsible for the death. As you might expect, time is of the essence when it comes to investigating these matters because the longer one waits the greater the likelihood that critical evidence can be destroyed or discarded. That is why it is a good idea to contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible.  

Once the complaint is framed and filed, it is served upon the responsible parties, known in the court system as “defendants.” The various defendants will then serve answers to the complaint and, sometimes, crossclaims against each other. Crossclaims happen when one defendant points the finger at another, claiming that the other is responsible.  

It is critical that suit is commenced before the expiration of the statute of limitations, which is a law that limits the amount of time in which certain claims can be brought. Some statutes of limitations are very short and notice of claim deadlines are even shorter. This is another reason why it is important to contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible: Delay could mean forfeiture of a valid claim.   

Discovery, formally known as “disclosure” in the New York court system, is often the longest stage of a wrongful death case. That is when the parties gain information about the various claims and defenses. This can entail depositions, requiring the parties and relevant non-party witnesses to answer questions under oath in the presence of a court reporter, and requests for documents and other things. The discovery process can sometimes take a while, but it is a critical stage in a New York wrongful death case because it sets the stage for trial. Every case is unique, and the duration of the discovery process can vary. The attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. are adept at streamlining the discovery process to reduce unnecessary delay.  

After discovery, the parties may file what’s known as “summary judgment” motions. This is the procedural equivalent of trial, but it is conducted on papers—based on the pretrial of witnesses and other information gained through discovery—as opposed to in-person testimony before a jury. The attorney will assemble and prepare evidence obtained during discovery, and gain affidavits from any necessary experts. An experienced wrongful death attorney can guide you through this critical stage in the proceedings.  

Depending on the outcome of summary judgment motions, trial generally comes next. During this stage, the estate will have an opportunity to present the case to a factfinder, which is normally a jury but sometimes a judge. Depending on the verdict, post-trial motions may follow and sometimes even an appeal.  

Despite these various stages in the litigation process, the role of a motor vehicle accident lawyer after a wrongful death on New York roads is always the same: to advocate on behalf of the estate to help ensure maximum compensation under the circumstances.  

If You’ve been Affected by Wrongful Death 

The attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. have extensive experience helping people after wrongful deaths on New York roads. If you recently lost a loved one due to the wrongdoing of another, please do not hesitate to give us a call. We would be honored to help you during a very difficult time. 

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