How Long Does a Wrongful Death Case Take in Iowa?  

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Posted by Emily Anderson

A wrongful death can result from improper nursing home care, medical negligence, or in a car crash.  No matter how your loved one died, the litigation process can take time.

While a lawsuit may be the last thing on your mind when you’re dealing with an unexpected death, you may have questions about the Iowa wrongful death lawsuit process, which we hope to answer.  

Determine What Rights You Have After a Wrongful Death in Iowa

One of the most important steps you can take is to investigate your rights and the rights of your loved one early.  An experienced Iowa wrongful death attorney will know the proper steps to investigate and preserve the proper evidence for your claim.

For example, in a semi-crash case, trucking companies must retain crash-related evidence, such as the “black box” information, for only 6 months after the crash. A properly worded letter sent early on can help preserve the evidence. Also, an expert may need to inspect the site before any alterations are made to the roadway, and to the vehicles before they are junked.  

Further, depending on the circumstances of the death, an attorney may recommend an autopsy be performed.  

Government Investigations After an Iowa Wrongful Death

Depending on how your loved one died, there may be government investigations that need to take place before an attorney can recommend that you pursue the claim.
For example, if a death occurs at a workplace, OSHA – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – must conduct an investigation to determine any safety regulation violations.  

If your loved one passed away in a nursing home, the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals might investigate potential violations of nursing home safety regulations. 

If your loved one passed away in a motor vehicle collision, the State likely conducts a Technical Investigation, similar to an accident reconstruction, to identify the accident’s cause.  

While these types of investigations are not always necessary to proceed forward with a claim, your personal injury attorney may want to have the reports in hand before advising you whether to proceed forward. 

In a nursing home claim, involving the appropriate state government agency early on for an investigation might be necessary. Interviewing key witnesses soon after the death is essential. Witnesses’ memories will fade, and preserving these memories through interviews will be crucial to your claim.  

Timeline of Wrongful Death Claims in Iowa

Generally speaking, these types of post-death investigations are completed within 6 months of the death.  Depending on the circumstances they can take longer or shorter, but that is a general estimate.  

The attorney may need another 6 to 9 months beyond that to conduct his or her own investigation.  If the case is one that is appropriate for pre-lawsuit settlement negotiations, the attorney will make a settlement demand to the defendant.  In a wrongful death case, this is likely at least 9 months to a year after the death.  

If you can’t settle the case, you must file a lawsuit. You typically have two years from the negligence date causing the death to file most wrongful death cases.

After filing a case, opportunities usually arise to negotiate a potential settlement again, but typically not until 9 to 12 months after filing. During this period, the parties are exchanging information about the case.  We call this the “discovery” process.

They usually schedule the trial roughly two years after filing the lawsuit.

If the trial had a legal error…

Overall, you can resolve a wrongful death claim as early as 12-15 months from the death date or it might take up to five years.  In our experience, most wrongful death cases do not five years to resolve.  

Some of our clients come to us in their darkest hours.  Rest assured, if you need legal help with a wrongful death claim, your attorney will explain the process to you every step of the way.  We also know that you need time and space to grieve your loss without worrying about a lawsuit, and we will respect that.

If you have any questions about a wrongful death claim, please get in touch with our attorneys at RSH Legal today at 1-800-433-0283. 

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