Fatal Orlando Car Accident Cases Versus Probate: When I Can’t Help
As an Orlando wrongful death attorney, I frequently receive calls from those who have just lost a loved one in a fatal auto accident. These are obviously among the most tragic calls I receive.
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Today I received a phone call that is pretty typical of my semi-regular calls. A woman called about her father, who had passed away in a fatal car accident. She wanted advice on when to file various documents, and the deadlines involved.
I had spoken with her a few weeks ago, and unfortunately realized that I was unable to accept her wrongful death case based on a fatal auto accident. I really hate when that happens because very often unfair laws are the culprit, and a wrongful death loss is obviously the worst possible situation for the grieving family member. In those cases, I spend as much time as needed to make sure there is nothing that I can do to help, which I did with this woman. Sometimes that takes me 5 minutes, sometimes several days. I spent a couple of hours evaluating her case, including asking lots of questions, and performing a good bit of legal research, before determining that unfortunately I could not help her.
Florida Wrongful Death & Fatal Car Accident Survivors Might Have A Probate Claim
Whenever I cannot accept a fatal car, truck or motorcycle accident case, there still might be a probate claim to pursue. For example, the person might be entitled to recovery under a will. If there is no will, then Florida has something called an intestacy statute, which outlines which survivors are entitled to receive money from the deceased person’s estate. This estate may, or may not, include recovery from the estate’s wrongful death case.
To make matters even more confusing, sometimes only an estate has a wrongful death claim. However, sometimes individual survivors, like a spouse, minor children, or parents, also have their own individual wrongful death claim. So the estate and the individuals may have separate claims. And even more confusing is the fact that only the personal representative of an estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit, which would represent the interests of both the estate, and the individual survivors.
In any event, with this particular woman, I referred her to an estate attorney. She called that lawyer, and he had been helping her.
So she called me back to ask about various deadlines related to that probate action.
Unfortunately, when I am unable to accept a wrongful death case, for liability and practical reasons, I am unable to give legal advice.
The Work Orlando Fatal Car Accident Lawyers Must Do To Give Advice
Lawyers must review all evidence, documents and often speak with witnesses and perform legal research to give accurate answers. Even when we have done all of those things, we often do not have a clear answer.
The law is filled with unclear issues. Just think about this — a jury consisting of unknown people hears the evidence in any case. That process might take several days, weeks, or even longer. They then make a decision based on unclear standards like “reasonable person” (in civil cases) or “beyond a reasonable doubt” (in criminal cases). Those are very basic examples. Jury instructions and decisions can get much more complicated — yet the instructions are always similarly unclear. Indeed, one of the things lawyers fight to make happen is to get the jury instructions that they want.
So we simply can’t give advice or answers in many cases. We can only give educated guidance.
As for deadlines, often those are more clear. But not always. Which particular deadlines might apply varies, depending on the type of case, and issues involved. And knowing the type of cases, and issues involved, again requires detailed analysis of many factors. I certainly cannot trust a non-lawyer who calls me thinking she needs to file one document or another, to know, for sure, that is the document she needs to file, and then tell her that deadline.
This woman, I think, wanted deadlines associated with a probate issue. I am not a probate lawyer. But I couldn’t even know exactly what she needed, without learning all facts of her case. That includes whether she really even needs to file whatever she wants to file.
Besides, when it comes to probate, I don’t even know many of the deadlines. That’s why Orlando wrongful death lawyers always hire probate lawyers whenever we open any estate for a wrongful death action. So really I could have just told her I had no idea. But that’s not the point.
Orlando Wrongful Death & Fatal Car Accident Lawyers Know Very Little Until They Review All Evidence
I can’t know those things without reviewing all facts, and evidence, and then making a decision. If I am unable to accept the case, then I can’t perform the many hours of research and factual analysis to give an accurate answer. And I sure can’t give an “off-the-cuff” answer, for liability reasons.
I do wish that I could help more people by quickly answering their questions. When I can help easily, by suggesting another lawyer or obvious & quick solution, then I do. But wrongful death lawyers usually cannot give quick answers to just about any question.
If you are wondering whether you might have a valid claim to a fatal auto accident or wrongful death case, then please give me a call. I will evaluate whether I can help you, or give you the name of a probate attorney to evaluate those issues, if I cannot.