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Wrongful & Untimely Death Attorneys

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Lees Summit Wrongful Death AttorneysLee’s Summit wrongful death claims arise when a person is killed as a result of the negligence of another person or business.  These claims can usually be brought by surviving members of the immediate family. Wrongful death claims can arise out of transportation or aviation accidents, medical malpractice, exposure to hazardous products, premises liability and railroad crossing accidents.  Wrongful death cases in Lee’s Summit and surrounding areas are filed in the Circuit Court of Jackson County at Independence. Such cases are filed under Missouri Statute 537.080, which states:

537.080. 1. Whenever the death of a person results from any act, conduct, occurrence, which, if death had not ensued, would have entitled such person to recover damages in respect thereof, the person who would have been liable if death had not ensued shall be liable in an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, which damages may be sued for:

(1) By the spouse or children or the surviving descendants of any deceased children, natural or adopted, or by the father or mother of the deceased, natural or adoptive;

(2) If there are no persons in class (1) entitled to bring the action, then the brother or sister of the deceased, or their descendants may bring the law suit, if they can establish their right to the damages set out in section 537.090 because of the death;

(3) If there are no persons in class (1) or (2) entitled to bring the action, then a plaintiff ad litem can bring the cause of action. This plaintiff ad litem shall be appointed by the court having jurisdiction over the litigation provided in this section upon application of one of the persons entitled to share in the proceeds of the action. This plaintiff ad litem shall be some suitable person competent to prosecute the action and whose appointment is requested on behalf of those persons entitled to share in the proceeds of the lawsuit. The court may, in its discretion, require that the plaintiff ad litem give bond for the faithful performance of his duties. 2. Only one action may be brought under this section against any one defendant for the death of any one person.

Your family’s Lee’s Summit wrongful death case will likely need to be filed within three years of your loved one’s death. It is important to call our office as soon as possible to allow us time to gather the evidence, interview the witnesses and properly work your case.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wrongful Death Cases in Jackson County

  1. Why do I need a lawyer?  The insurance company has offered to pay my medical bills!
  2. My friend knows an attorney that fixed a speeding ticket for him a few years ago. Why can’t that lawyer represent me in my wrongful death case?
  3. What should I look for in choosing a wrongful death attorney to represent my family’s claim?
  4. How can I afford a wrongful death lawyer?
  5. Will I have to put up any money to get started?
  6. Isn’t it expensive to pursue a claim involving wrongful death? Who pays for the out-of-pocket expenses to prosecute my family’s case?
  7. What is my wrongful death case worth?
  8. I’m not the “suing” type. Is there a way to resolve my claim without actually filing a lawsuit?
  9. Will my case go to a jury trial if we file suit?
  10. I’ve heard that jury awards are more conservative than they used to be.  I read about these large verdicts in the newspaper.  Are these unusual or are big verdicts the norm?
  11. Will you discuss all the details with me before settling my case?
  12. How long will it take before my family’s wrongful death case goes to trial?
  13. What is a deposition?

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1. Why do I need a lawyer?  The insurance company has offered to pay the medical bills!

Insurance companies offer money up front to avoid paying the full amount they promised to in their insurance contract. Attorneys work for full payment of the insurance company’s debt to you. In the end, the consumer gets more.

The law provides for an injured person to be compensated or made whole by the responsible party. Obviously, the extent of compensation will vary depending on the specific facts of a case. Full compensation may include elements other than payment of medical bills, such as payment for the mental anguish the victim suffered, loss of ability to enjoy life, lost wages and diminished earning capacity. This is why early consultation with a lawyer experienced in personal injury cases can help you obtain the maximum recovery allowed by the law.

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2. My friend knows a lawyer that fixed a speeding ticket for him several years ago. Why can’t that lawyer represent me in my wrongful death case?

wrongful death claims are typically brought against parties who are represented by adjusters and professional defense lawyers hired by large insurance companies. Every insurance company works hard to keep its losses as low as possible.  They do that by aggressively defending claims. The less money your family gets; the more money they keep.  You can expect that your opposition will be represented by an attorney with a great deal of experience in wrongful death defense. You should hire a lawyer that is an expert in pursuing wrongful death claims, who can best protect your interests.

Lee’s Summit Municipal Court matters are very different than Jackson County wrongful death cases.  It takes years and years to develop and hone the skills needed to successfully litigate wrongful death claims.  Sure, many attorneys will “claim” to be competent and experienced in such matters.  As in all things, “the Devil is in the details.”  You don’t want your family’s wrongful death case to be an attorney’s “opportunity to learn” at your family’s expense.

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3. What should I look for in looking for a wrongful death lawyer to represent my family?

Research the law firm and attorneys you are considering to represent you. Get information on the lawyer’s education, training and experience.  Ask the lawyer to tell you about his/her experience in Lee’s Summit wrongful death cases. Ask about the attorney’s trial experience.  Assure yourself that if your case goes to trial, your counsel has the knowledge and experience to take you there. Ask the lawyer to go over the attorney’s fee contract with you in detail, and be sure you understand how the lawyer’s fees and costs will be paid at the end of the case.  Lee’s Summit wrongful death cases are different.

The first tip off is find out what the attorney typically does case-wise.  Most attorneys spend their time doing domestic cases, traffic cases and small criminal matters.  “A Jack-of-all-Trades is Master of None” is true here.  There is carry-over between personal injury cases and wrongful death cases.  However, other areas of the law do not carry over; worse, they get lawyers into bad habits that may make sense for other types of cases, but hinder wrongful death cases.  It’s just a different mentality; a different way to go about litigation.  You wouldn’t go to a foot Doctor for a back problem, would you?

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4. How can I afford a wrongful death lawyer?

Here is the good news.  Most wrongful death trial attorneys are willing to handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that the law firm will not charge you a fee for his time unless you get money. If a money recovery is made, then the attorney’s fee is based on an agreed percentage of the gross amount recovered. We don’t make money unless you make money.  You don’t pay if we don’t.  It’s that simple.

The wrongful death lawyers at Hamilton & Associates charge contingency fees that depend on the amount of work that a case will take and the profitability of the case. Typically 40% is normal in a case that is settled before the need for a lawsuit arises, a 40% to 50% fee is used when a lawsuit needs to be filed in court and litigation occurs. Other fee percentages are used and depend on the facts of each unique case. The contingent attorney’s fee does not include the costs of pursuing a claim, which may range from just a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. These costs are payable separately, and not as a part of the contingent fee. Although many law firms may require you to pay these costs in advance, at Hamilton & Associates we understand that the consequences of a wrongful death case make it difficult, if not impossible, for your family to pay in advance the costs of your case. In most cases, we pay the costs, and simply ask to be reimbursed at the conclusion of a case when your recovery is received.

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5. Will I have to put up any money to get started?

No. The majority of Lee’s Summit wrongful death cases we handle involve a contingency fee contract. That means we do not get paid unless and until you (our client) make a recovery and get paid. In rare circumstances, we might represent a client on an hourly-fee basis (if the case calls for such an arrangement). Either way, the fee and cost agreement you have with our law firm will be explained to you in detail before we begin pursuit of your wrongful death claim.

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6. Isn’t it expensive to pursue a claim involving a wrongful death? Who pays for the out-of-pocket expenses to prosecute my family’s case?

It is very expensive to pursue wrongful death claims. This is one of the reasons why the vast majority of attorneys are not wrongful death attorneys.  Such cases require a significant reserve of money in the law firm to pay expenses.  You wouldn’t start a journey with a vehicle that doesn’t have enough gas to make it, would you?  So too, be mindful of hiring a Lee’s Summit attorney for a wrongful death case that may lack the funds to finish the fight.

It is common for the costs of Lee’s Summit wrongful death cases to exceed many tens of thousands of dollars. This needs to either be paid up front by the wrongful death law firm or by you.  At Hamilton & Associates we understand that the expenses of pursuing wrongful death cases is substantial. That is why our law firm carries with it a large reserve.  This reserve allows us to pay for costs to prepare cases properly for trial. Warning!  This is another area where attorneys who do not specialize in Lee’s Summit wrongful death cases cut corners!  Other lawyers may be out of town so they don’t travel to see a witness, or expert or properly investigate the scene of the wrongful death to cut costs of money and time.  Other law firms may skimp on hiring an expert (or delay the hiring of the expert) to save their costs.  This prejudices your family’s rwongful death case.  Really, best practice from an attorney’s  point of view is to anticipate all the issues in advance, hire and consult with the experts, gather the evidence, then proceed with the wrongful death claim.  This is a key difference between mediocre lawyers and a wrongful death specialist.

Out-of-pocket expenses are ultimately a client’s responsibility in a successfully-concluded wrongful death case. While the case is pending, our law firm nearly always advances the expenses incurred . If and when the wrongful death case reaches a successful conclusion, these costs are returned to the law firm out of your recovery.

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7. What is my family’s wrongful death case worth?

That depends; every case is unique. Before an accurate determination of the value of your family’s Lee’s Summit wrongful death case can be made, we need to get the evidence (as discussed above).

This is another area where an attorney specializing in wrongful death cases is needed.  Wrongful death cases are very different than personal injury claims. Personal injury cases are valued according to the loss of the person themself.  Wrongful death cases are valued according to the loss of the surviving family. The suffering of the dead person is not the primary input to damages.  The loss of employment over the entire anticipated remaining life of the individual becomes important because the family can no longer rely upon that income.  The loss of the care, comfort and support of the deceased individual becomes important to damages (the case’s worth) because that too is a loss to the family.  Funeral costs go in.

Thus, when we are talking about the value of a Lee’s Summit wrongful death case, the income of the deceased is key.  The relationship of the person to their various family members becomes important.  It is important to the value of the wrongful death claim to determine how many dependants the victim had and how old the victim was (thus determining how many years of care, comfort and suport the surviving family members are out).  An economist needs to be hired early-on to determine this.  Frankly, it is important to the value of teh wrongful death case to determine how good of witnesses the surviving family members will be.  Lets face it; juries give more money to people they like than people they don’t.  A family of many cute little surviving children has a greater wrongful death value than a small number of adults, all other factors being equal (which they never are).  Thus, as one can see, the value of your wrongful death case depends on many factors.  Better to make an appointment with my office and we can talk this issue over as it truly requires an expert analysis.

Hamilton & Associates has been evaluating cases and representing people for over four decades. You must know that there is never a guarantee of any specific recovery. Be wary of any law firm that puts a specific value on your claim before it has learned all of the relevant facts to determine the impact that the wrongful death has had on your family.

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8. I’m not the “suing” type. Is there any way my family’s wrongful death claim can be resolved without actually filing a lawsuit?

Maybe.  That depends upon the circumstances.  The vast majority of Lee’s Summit wrongful death claims are resolved before a jury reaches a verdict after a trial. Many wrongful death claims are settled even before a lawsuit is filed. The ultimate decision about whether to file a lawsuit at all is your decision and your family’s decision.  You have the final word.

The lawyers at Hamilton & Associates are committed to helping our clients reach a resolution to their wrongful death claim, whether through a lawsuit and trial; or by some alternative means. Our attorneys are experienced in alternative dispute resolution procedures (such as mediation & arbitration).  These procedures can avoid the need to file a lawsuit altogether. We will always take the time to explain to you and your family the alternatives available, including the risks and advantages of each, so that you can make an informed decision that is best for your family’s individual circumstances.

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9. Will my Lee’s Summit wrongful death case go to trial if we do have to file suit?

Probably not.  Most lawsuits that are filed settle before trial. Regardless, our law firm prepares every case as if it will ultimately be decided by a jury. This is necessary both for purposes of getting the jury trial done right, but also it is necessary for any settlement, mediation or arbitration.  Defense attorneys that specialize in wrongful death cases will know whether your attorney is prepared and ready for trial.  That is why is is important to hire a specialist in Lee’s Summit wrongful death cases.  That is why it is som important for the wrongful death attorney to know what to do, and actually do it.  Our law firm will be prepared in the event an agreement between the parties cannot be reached. At the same time, we will aggressively pursue resolution of wrongful death claims at all stages in the case, so that the process does not become unduly difficult, burdensome, or expensive for you or your family.  This also allows us to obtain the best results possible.

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10. I’ve heard that jury awards are more conservative than they used to be.  The large verdicts I read about in the newspaper are unusual I hear. Is this true?

Verdict trends hare more conservative than they used to be.  This means it is less likely today that you would have a verdict calling you a winner than in the past.  This means that if your family does win its wrongful death case, the verdict will be smaller than a similar case in the past.  Insurance companies and big corporations have steadily put out press releases for decades telling such stories.  The press then prints them.  Eventually, people believe it and get more conservative.  Then those same insurance companies and big corporations pay less in lawsuits and their profits go up.

Wrongful death cases are an example of this trend. It is better than the state of the law, say before then 1960s.  Then, all one could hope for was a payment of funeral expenses.  Still, the conservative trend of juries underlies the importance of hiring the right wrongful death Lee’s Summit lawyer.

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11. Will you discuss all the detail with my family and me before settling my case?

Yes, no Lee’s Summit wrongful death case is ever settled without your expressed consent and permission. the attorneys at our law firm (I personally) will inform you of any settlement offer that is made to you.  We will inform you of any settlement demand we make.  Settlement will occur only with your full participation.  You will have our expert advice.  Your family’s case will be settled only with your consent.

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12. How long will it take for my family’s Lee’s Summit wrongful death case to go to trial?

Our law firm here at Hamilton & Associates works all over the United States. It is true that each court in the United States differs in the amount of time it takes to bring a case to jury trial. Still, cases generally go to trial within two to three years after filing.  Typically a case will settle within a few months of the wrongful death claim being made, or within a few months of suit being filed.  Otherwise, cases tend to settle just before or during jury trial. Jury trial dockets tend to be about two years out, on average.

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13. What is a deposition?

A deposition is testimony taken under oath.  The witness goes to one of the party’s law offices.  A court reporter swear the person in (they promise to tell the truth).  The court reporter then types down everything they say.  Each party is allowed to ask questions.  The written tesitmony can then be used at trial later on, or to make formal requests to the court.

Depositions in Lee’s Summit wrongful death cases are important.  The number of experts can be large.  The expert can be from around the country and not everyone can appear live at trial due to their schedule.  Also, the family may not want to pay the added expense for the expert to appear live at trial, especially where a video deposition of the wrongful death witness will do.  Thus, depositions typically have a greater than normal role in Lee’s Summit wrongful death cases.

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Hamilton & Associates, Lawyers

P.O. Box 215
216 North Highway 7
Pleasant Hill, MO 64080-0215

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