It can seem from reading posts on the topic that making a wrongful death claim in the event that a loved one dies as the result of the acts of one or more other persons is a cut-and-dry process: file a complaint alleging all of the required elements of a cause of action, and then wait for a settlement or court judgment in your favor. But as you are probably already aware from living life in other contexts, things often are not as simple as they may seem based on a superficial examination.
Any time a lawsuit is initiated, you should expect that the defendants will retain their own legal counsel and that they will attempt to devise defenses — including counter-claims, third party liability, affirmative defenses and more — to attempt to avoid liability. A very recent case that involves West Virginia University offers a good example of how this works in actual practice. The parents of a student at the university who died of alcohol poisoning after an alleged hazing incident at a fraternity there filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university and others. For its part, the university has now responded to the lawsuit by filing an answer to the complaint claiming that it is not liable because the university did not approve the events leading to the death of the student.
Pursuing a legal claim in court, be it for wrongful death, personal injury or otherwise, can become a lengthy process that will require not only identifying the necessary facts and arguments to present a valid complaint but also anticipating the legal defenses that the defendant or defendants will raise and being prepared to counter those defenses. Having experienced personal injury attorneys on your side who will know how to deal with the variety of defensive arguments and legal tactics that you should expect to encounter is essential in maximizing your chances for either receiving a suitable out-of-court settlement or to prevail in a trial of the matter.
Source: West Virginia Public Broadcasting, “WVU Responds to Wrongful Death Lawsuit from Hazing Death,” Dec. 19, 2015