The discovery portion of a wrongful death lawsuit is potentially the most important phase because it establishes whether or not the claim is valid. Wrongful death is unlike a personal injury claim in Massachusetts, and it is a completely separate legal action that is intended as compensation for the surviving family. The fact that a defendant would have been liable for injuries does not necessarily mean that the wrongful death claim is valid. Additionally, there are time limitations in which a claim may be filed. This is all determined in the discovery phase.
Statute of limitations
The first issue determined in a discovery hearing is whether or not the plaintiff even has standing to sue due to time restrictions. In Massachusetts, injured parties having three years to file for both personal injury claims and wrongful death actions. The problems in making this determination is establishing when the clock begins and if there is a possibility of tolling the clock in some cases based on material evidence.
Presenting material evidence
The next application of discovery is that it also provides for submitting the material evidence being used as grounds for the lawsuit. The plaintiff must be either the legal representative of the decedent’s estate or the executor. The material evidence delivered in discovery will be the basis for the wrongful death lawsuit that must be awarded by a jury following a trial. Cases may be settled before trial, but the litigation must be properly filed.
Proceeds from a wrongful death case can extend well beyond standard compensation in egregious cases. There are also multiple negligent parties in certain cases, and liability must be established for all defendants. This is also established in the discovery phase of the trial.