What Should I Focus On for Note Taking on a Wrongful Death Trial?
According to the CDC, more than 200,000 deaths occur yearly due to unintentional injuries. These deaths are considered wrongful, meaning that they were caused by the unjust actions of another person.
If you are in the middle of a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s essential to know and document the facts. Notes and records are critical forms of evidence that can make a difference in the outcome of your case.
Not sure which details to prioritize? Today, we’re sharing what to focus on as you gather data and build your claim.
Why Note-Taking Is Critical in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Evidence plays a significant role in any lawsuit. However, it’s imperative when you’re trying to prove the events that caused a wrongful death.
Each state will have laws governing the specifics required for your case. However, you’ll always need to provide credible evidence that the defendant committed a wrongful act, either negligently or intentionally, that led to the individual’s death.
If your loved one died due to another person’s actions, you could be eligible to receive compensation for your loss. While no amount of money can ever account for your grief and suffering, this can be an essential step toward establishing justice and providing you with the means required to heal from the event.
Only “real parties in interest” are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit for a decedent. These include immediate family members, life partners, siblings, dependents, and parents or grandparents.
As you build your case, you’ll need concrete details to support your claim. Let’s look at the notes to take that can improve your chances of winning a wrongful death suit.
Types of Notes to Take in a Wrongful Death Suit
Before you begin gathering evidence and taking notes, you must understand that you need legal counsel by your side. A wrongful death attorney can help you navigate every part of the process, which can be complex and complicated.
The individual’s medical records will be considered vital evidence when filing a wrongful death suit. If the person received medical treatment and later succumbed to injuries, the court will need to know the treatment’s details. This is also the case if they were the unfortunate victim of medical malpractice.
It’s critical to retrieve those medical records as soon as possible and ensure they are complete. These records should show thorough information regarding the patient’s care, including:
- Test results
- Physician notes
- Physician consultation records
- Medical evaluations
- Prescription information
- Othe health-related documentation
If you attended any medical visits with the individual, you could also contribute the notes you took. These might contain critical points that the physician shared or recommendations they provided. This evidence can work together to help you create a compelling wrongful death case.
If there were witnesses around when the fatal accident or incident occurred, their statements could help explain the course of action that preceded the event.
If possible, you should locate them and obtain their contact information right at the scene. You can follow up shortly after to get their official statement and collect a statement from each witness afterward.
Both the courts and insurance companies take eyewitness accounts very seriously. If you are unsure which individuals were present at the time of the death, you may be able to obtain video footage of the scene.
Notes at the Scene
Photographs and videos of the death scene will be significant evidence in your case. They can help establish blame and determine faults, such as in the event of a car accident, medical malpractice, or workplace accident.
However, if you were present at the scene, your notes are pivotal, too. If possible, write down what you see and who is present. Describe the moments leading up to the death and what occurred directly afterward.
Notes on Negligence or Breach of Duty
If your loved one died due to someone’s negligent actions, their death is considered wrongful. A car accident is one example. If a driver was under the influence or texting and driving and caused a crash, they acted carelessly.
Using information from police reports and eyewitness statements, take notes on what the suspect did when the incident occurred. These details can help you establish negligence and strengthen your case.
Remember that you can also file your case based on breach of duty. This means that the suspect had a responsibility to uphold toward the deceased and failed to do so.
In the case of a car accident, all drivers must drive carefully and obey the rules of the road. In the case of medical malpractice, all physicians must uphold the standard of care. If these parties deviate from those duties, their errors, omissions, or delays can lead to death.
Your notes on how negligence or breach of duty occurred can help the court understand the timeline of events and the steps leading up to the deadly event.
Notes on Physical Evidence
In some wrongful death cases, there is clear evidence demonstrating the event. For instance, if a patient falls victim to medical malpractice, a foreign object could be left inside their body after surgery.
If there is any physical evidence, take clear notes describing how it looks, where it was found, and the condition that it was in when you found it. While the court may access the evidence, your description is critical.
Evidence of Economic Damage
When someone suffers a wrongful death, their loved ones can experience economical and non-economic damages. Economic damages affect your finances; they cover the financial support that the decedent would have contributed to your family if they didn’t die.
Examples of economic damages can include:
- Death-related medical and funeral expenses
- Loss of anticipated earnings
- Loss of an inheritance caused by the untimely death
- Loss of benefits (e.g., medical coverage, pension plans)
- The inherent value of the goods and household services that the decedent would have provided
There are several documents you can gather and notes you can take to prove these damages, such as pay stubs and tax returns. These show how much money the deceased earned; you can include those lost wages and income in your claim.
While those calculations are relatively straightforward, it can be difficult to assess other economic damages accurately. For instance, if the decedent was the primary homemaker parent, you’ll need to determine their work’s monetary value, including child care, cooking, household maintenance, transportation, and more. Carefully record the extent of the person’s contributions to your daily life and routine, making sure to think of every way they supported your family.
Then, your attorney can connect you with an expert witness, such as an economist or an actuary, who can assign a dollar value to those critical support services. After reviewing your notes, they can give their professional opinion on the proper amount of damages you can claim to cover that loss.
Evidence of Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are less tangible than economic ones, although they have more value. Without the decedent’s love, care, and companionship, you will feel these effects, and they can also cover the loss of their assistance, protection, and guidance.
Examples of non-economic damages you can claim include:
- Mental pain, anguish, or suffering
- Loss of care, protection, training, and nurturing
- Loss of society and companionship
- Loss of consortium (emotional harm)
In this case, there might not be any documents to provide the court to prove these sentiments existed. This is why personal notes are precious.
Take notes that describe your relationship with the deceased person. The closer your relationship was, the easier it was for the jury to understand the degree of grief and sorrow you are suffering. Demonstrate examples that show the strength and closeness of your bond, paying particular attention to these types of details:
- How much time you spent with the decedent
- How happy and harmonious your relationship had been
- Common hobbies and interests you shared
- Social activities and events you participated in together
- How often the decedent had offered aid, comfort, and support to you
The jury will weigh these notes and your testimony when determining the outcome of the wrongful death case. These details will also be relevant to all opposing parties and their insurance companies.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If your loved one suffered a wrongful death, you could be eligible for damages to help compensate for your loss. Though we understand that it’s impossible to assign a dollar amount to your grief, this can be an essential step to help you move forward.
By taking the notes described above, you can build a strong case and help improve the outcome of your wrongful death lawsuit. However, you don’t have to do it alone.