When Grief Gets in the Way of Justice: How Family Members Get in the Way of a Wrongful Death Claim

While you’re coping with the unexpected loss of a loved one, the last thing you want to worry about is watching what you do or say. But in order to get justice for their death, you have to do exactly that.

Emotions are understandably high when someone passes because of the negligence of another person. There is almost always a feeling of devastation, resentment, and sadness mixed together with anger.

Who better than to release that anger on than the person responsible for your pain?

But the loved ones who are left to deal with their grief often get in the way of justice being served.

The law is the law, and it doesn’t bend because someone was acting out of pain instead of common sense.

When you or someone you know has lost a loved one due to negligence of another party, the best way to handle it is to file a wrongful death claim with Hershey Law.

Then comes the hard part: You have to get out of the way of the lawsuit so your attorneys can do their job. That means you have to be careful in your actions.

Here are some of the most common things grieving family members do to sabotage their ability to get justice for their loved one.

What Not to Do During a Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death lawsuits are a branch of personal injury claims that stem from someone’s tragedy. Because of this, they are frequently fraught with emotion.

Someone’s loved one has died as a result of another person’s negligence or intentional actions. For many of the survivors, the only way to get comfort is to have the at-fault party held accountable for their behavior.

Wrongful death claims are also the surviving family members’ way of receiving financial compensation for their loss. When money and tragedy are involved, families don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Because of the volatility of the suit, it’s easy to accidentally mess up a wrongful death claim. You can use the mistakes other people have made to ensure your lawsuit goes smoothly and your loved one gets the justice they deserve.

  1. Avoid public forums.

One of the biggest forces that work against people during any personal injury claim is social media. Through these avenues, the truth gets filtered and watered down until the actual facts are muddy and unclear.

Social media posts have cost many people their cases and won them for others. It’s a great tool when it’s used right. But it gives new meaning to the phrase, “Whatever you say can be used against you in a court of law.”

You’ve probably heard numerous examples of someone’s words being taken out of context. This happens in texts and on social media feeds, too.

Your post, even though you meant to harm, can be ambiguous and used against you. It’s happened many times in personal injury lawsuits. The smartest thing to do is to avoid talking about your loved one and the case itself in any public forum.

Avoid the media, don’t give interviews, and don’t make statements on your social media feed. Encourage your other family members to do the same.

  1. Let the wrong person file the claim.

The lawyer you hire should do their due diligence to ensure that the party filing the wrongful death lawsuit is able to. But sometimes family lines and state laws cross in complex ways that are missed until it’s too late.

Every state has their own guidelines as to who is legally allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. California’s statutes clearly stipulate the allowed parties include the victim’s surviving spouse or domestic partner and surviving children.

But if none of these parties exist, there are stipulations as to who is entitled to file the claim. It may be the deceased’s parents, siblings, or someone else.

There must be proof of the relationship and a direct line from the law to the person’s right to file the claim. Otherwise, the defendant and their attorney can contest the entire suit.

  1. Taking sides amongst the family members. During the grieving process, it’s easy to point fingers. Maybe if this person hadn’t done this or that person hadn’t done that, your loved one would still be alive.

But your family is your biggest and greatest support system. The worst thing you can do is stir the pot and alienate everyone. If there must be a battle waged, there are two lines: You and your family against the defendant.

Sometimes in a wrongful death suit, the family members become vindictive against each other. They use social media and other outlets in harmful ways that are quickly picked up by the at-fault party’s lawyer.

Whether they regret their words immediately and take them down or keep them up long-term, the damage was done.

Especially in big-money lawsuits, you can be sure there is someone on the other party’s side scanning the news and social media feeds for exactly this evidence.

For everyone’s sake, don’t take sides. Don’t point fingers.

It’s a stressful time. Support each other.

  1. Communicating with other parties outside of the attorney.

Before you hire an attorney, keep your statements to the bare minimum of facts. You might be required to speak with insurance adjusters, supervisors and other people who need to be aware of what is going on.

But don’t be fooled – they’re not on your side.

Once you hire your lawyer, all of this communication should stop immediately. Any time someone tries to speak to you about the case, refer them to your attorney or their assistant.

This is particularly true when it comes to dealing with insurance companies. The adjuster assigned to your case is trained to use your statements against you when it is time to negotiate a settlement. It’s their job.

When multiple people are involved in a claim, they may give different statements, too. Adjusters jump on this conflict as a chance to throw a wrench in your statement. Without your attorney present, these statements can reduce your compensation or destroy your claim completely.

  1. Not abiding by the statute of limitations.

Almost every crime has a statute of limitations that has to be followed. Murder has no statute, but a wrongful death is not always a murder.

In some cases, the statute of limitations is missed because of a dispute over which family member is supposed to file the claim. One person may assume the other family member took care of the legalities, and they didn’t. A simple miscommunication of this type is costly.

In many wrongful death occurrences, the problem is that family members don’t realize they have a valid claim. They may even have spoken with an attorney who assured them that they had no case.

They move on with their lives, never receiving justice for their tragic loss.

Before you miss the statute and lose the opportunity to hold the at-fault party accountable, schedule a free consultation with Hershey Law. Our experts will meet with you and analyze your case to see how you can move forward with your healing.

You Can’t Fix the Hole, But You Can Get Compensation for Your Loss

No amount of money or retribution is going to bring back your loved one. Knowing that the person responsible was held accountable helps many surviving family members to be able to start the healing process faster, though.

This healing is often delayed by the reality of having to deal with a huge financial setback, especially if the person who passed away was the primary breadwinner.

Compensation in a lawsuit considers the economic and personal losses of those left behind. It can include such factors as:

  • Funeral and burial costs. An average funeral ranges anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 – not an amount the typical family has sitting in their bank account for a rainy day. When you add on the price of burial or cremation, this out-of-pocket expense can set families back significantly.


  • Medical bills. Many wrongful death cases are drawn out as doctors fight to fix the condition the victim is suffering from. This can result in high medical bills that don’t go away just because the patient passed away.


  • Loss of income. It was expected that the victim would continue to bring in their current income for the foreseeable future. The loss of these wages would affect the surviving family members. A successful wrongful death claim takes into account these lost wages in the final damages amount.


  • Loss of benefits. Extras such as health insurance or life insurance may have been canceled by your loved one’s death. These are considered important benefits that would be covered in your compensation.


  • Loss of companionship. Our loved ones are priceless and there is no way to put a dollar amount on their worth. But the value they provided is gone and a lawsuit is the only way to receive damages for your emotional loss.


  • Punitive damages. If the case is significant enough for the jury to decide the at-fault party needs to be punished, punitive damages may be incurred. This type of compensation typically occurs when the negligent party was reckless or intentionally neglectful.

None of this compensation is possible if you don’t file a lawsuit against the responsible party, though. When you’re ready to get justice for your loved one’s wrongful death, the attorneys at Hershey Law want to help you.

Call us today for your free consultation and start the path to healthy healing after your tragic loss.