Mentally Preparing for a Wrongful Death Case
By Donald Kudler, Esq.
As an attorney, there are few cases more emotionally draining than wrongful death lawsuits. When you take on a case of this nature, you do not act solely as a trusted legal advisor to the relatives of the deceased. In many instances, you will also be forced to function as something of a grief counselor.
Aside from dealing with the weight of expectations that are placed upon your shoulders by the grieving family, you must also come to terms with the fact that your lawsuit could potentially bankrupt a local business or a resident of your city. If you are successful in your pursuit of compensation, the defendant may be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars – or more.
With so much on the line, what can you do to stay grounded and calm throughout your wrongful death case?
How to get through a wrongful death case
Every lawyer has a different approach to dealing with the stresses and strains of draining wrongful death cases. However, a brief list of some of the tips that you are likely to find most helpful would include:
Being honest with the grieving family
When you first meet with the relatives of the deceased party, it is essential that you be as honest as possible with them. Let them know what a wrongful death lawsuit entails, making sure to specifically mention that it is likely to be long and draining. And be sure to tell them that, although you will work tirelessly on behalf of their loved one, there is never a guarantee that the case will work out in their favor.
Later, if the case may need to be litigated, let them know that their involvement will be necessary and discuss the fact that they may need to talk about their feelings at both a deposition and at trial when discussing whether or not they want to go forward. Of course, they have to be fully prepared for the questions to come at both the deposition and at trial. Take extra care to let them know if the defendant is going to attack them at the deposition or trial or has any information that will be used against them. Make sure they understand you are on their side and will protect them and object as necessary and appropriate.
Do not, under any circumstances, make any promises about attaining a specific monetary outcome. Similarly, you should never guarantee that you will achieve justice for their family member.
By being upfront with the family about what they should expect during the legal process, you can take a lot of weight off your shoulders. As a result, you will be able to spend less time worrying and more time focused on the case at hand.
Whether you prefer to go for a brisk walk around town on your lunch break or swim a few laps in your local pool after work, exercising regularly can be a superb way of relieving the anxiety you feel while working on a wrongful death case. Working up a sweat every day can:
- Encourage your brain to release feel-good endorphins
- Reduce your stress levels
- Increase your self-confidence
- Improve the quality of your sleep
If aerobic exercise is not your cup of tea, you may wish to take up yoga or pilates instead. Doing so can help you become much more relaxed and mindful.
Making time for your friends and family
When you are working on a wrongful death suit, it can be tempting to spend every moment of your day researching case law and requesting documents. Should you choose to do so, however, you are likely to feel extraordinarily stressed out before too long.
If you wish to remain grounded as you work through the case, it is vital that you set some time aside to relax and unwind with your family and friends. During this time, you should try to do something that will take your mind off the lawsuit. Going to the zoo, watching movies, visiting theme parks, and attending concerts are all excellent options.
Discussing the case with other attorneys
Many lawyers find that the best way to deal with a particularly difficult case is to speak with another member of the legal profession. If you are lucky, they may be able to provide you with some tips that can help you with the suit.
However, even if they do not have any words of wisdom, it is at least helpful to be able to talk to someone who understands the stress you are dealing with. You might be surprised how much stress you can take off your shoulders during a brief chat over some delicious steaks.
Speaking with a therapist
When clients need legal help, they turn to attorneys just like you. So, if the stress of your wrongful death suit is becoming unbearable, do not be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help from time to time.
The primary role of your therapist will be to listen to your concerns and provide you with coping mechanisms to deal with your issues. However, if your suffering is intense, they may be able to prescribe you some medication to ease your anxiety a little
This article was originally published in the “Mental Health” issue of Communiqué, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association, (June-July 2020).
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