What happens in a wrongful death case in Los Angeles depends on the circumstances of your case and the methods you decide to use to pursue financial awards for your losses. After you file your case against the defendant, the defendant must respond by filing an answer, in which they admit to the plaintiff’s claims, deny them, or reject them based on factors such as immunity.
At this point, you will meet with the other party to determine how you will proceed in seeking compensation, either out of court or in a jury trial. In some cases, wrongful death cases settle outside of the courtroom, but a lawyer can help you determine an appropriate course of action in your case.
Deciding on a Settlement Approach
According to Rule 3.722 of the 2020 California Rules of the Court, a case management conference must take place within six months after filing to determine how the parties will proceed with the case. The parties attend an initial conference to discuss how they plan to settle the case and will then submit forms to the court with their conclusions.
In some cases, the court will require both parties to attend the case management conference. In others, you do not need to take any further action after submitting your written form. After the conference, you can move forward with trial proceedings or a program for settling out of court.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
The Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles offers parties involved in civil suits several types of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), or methods for settling their claim out of court. The methods may include only the parties and/or their legal teams, or they can use the services of a third party to help them through the process. Sometimes, the parties can reach a resolution using a single process, while other times, they may try two or more before settling.
- Negotiation: Both parties or their legal teams discuss the details of the case, the evidence, and their propositions before attempting to agree on a settlement amount.
- Mediator: An unbiased party, known as a mediator, helps both sides evaluate the case and compromise on a settlement amongst themselves.
- Arbitration: A neutral person, known as an arbitrator, reviews the evidence and arguments to decide on a conclusion for the two parties. In some cases, arbitrators have the final say. Other times, the parties can reject the decision and proceed with a trial.
An attorney can help you determine what steps you should take in your Los Angeles wrongful death case.
Taking Your Case to Trial
Whether you cannot resolve your civil dispute through ADR or you or your lawyer chose to pursue trial instead, the final step involves going to court for a jury to decide what happens in your Los Angeles wrongful death case. The California Administrative Office of the Courts explains the process involved in a civil trial, which varies in length and complexity depending on the case.
- Discovery: Each party attempts to find facts from the other side that can support its case, often through depositions or interrogations. In some instances, discovery alone can lead to a settlement before the actual trial begins.
- Pretrial: The parties file motions to resolve issues, restrict the use of certain types of evidence, ask the judge to request that the other party produce evidence, or to schedule the trial.
- Opening statements: Both parties tell their sides of the story before the presentation of evidence.
- Presentation of evidence: Each party presents its evidence in an orderly fashion.
- Closing statements: Each party addresses the court once again to drive home their main points.
At this point, the jury receives their instructions, and deliberations begin. Deliberation could take hours, days, or even weeks in some cases. Once the jury agrees unanimously on the verdict, the judge reads it aloud.
After You Settle or the Jury Reaches a Verdict
Once you and the other party or a jury has decided if you will receive a settlement and for how much, you or a lawyer will send release documents to the insurance company or other unit responsible for providing the compensation. Then, you will use the financial awards to first pay off financial losses resulting from the accident, such as medical bills and funeral expenses. Finally, you will provide your legal team with the agreed-upon total for their services before keeping the remainder of the settlement or splitting it among qualifying heirs.
A Lawyer Can Help You with Your Wrongful Death Case
While a lawyer cannot tell you exactly what will happen in your wrongful death case in Los Angeles, they can guide you through every step of the process to help you seek adequate financial recovery in your case. If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you do not have to manage your claim alone. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 223-5115 today to access your free case evaluation.