How We Investigate Drowning Accident Deaths
Accidental drowning has always been a major contributor to the premature deaths of our children and young adults. In some cases, these deaths are "written off" as tragic but accidental and no further action is taken. However, a drowning accident lawyer is often able to determine that negligence by one or more parties may have played a part in such deaths and may recommend that the victim's family consider one of several legal options.
On this page, the drowning accident lawyer at the Doan Law Firm explains how we investigates all accidental drowning death cases where our firm has been retained ("hired") by the victim's family to represent their interests in court after they have filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
Phase I: The Initial Interview
At our firm, many of our accidental drowning cases come to us by way of our free case review service. This involves a series of questions to which a potential client gives their best answers and does not obligate the family to hiring our firm to act as their legal counsel.
During this interview, we learn the "Four W's" of all drowning accident cases:
- What happened?
- When did it happen?
- Who did it happen to?
- Why did it happen
Once we have this information, we will usually have a good idea as to whether an accidental drowning/wrongful death lawsuit may be warranted and will be ready to move into the next phase of our process: Investigation.
Phase II: Investigation
In the "Investigation" phase, we try to locate as much information as possible concerning the accident itself. This includes gathering copies of documents such as accident reports, police and first responder documents, medical records, and even newspaper clippings that mention the accident and its consequences. We will also search for relevant information that may exist in records kept by government agencies, such as:
United States Coast Guard
The Coast Guard has the authority to investigate any accident in which one, or more, of the following events occurs:
- A person was killed
- A person disappears from a boat under circumstances that would indicate death or injury
- A person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond simple first aid
- Damage to vessels and other property totals $2,000 or more, although lower amounts may apply in some states or territories
- The boat was destroyed
Due to the potentially large number of investigations that the above events could cause, the Coast Guard will often defer its investigations to state and local authorities and then include those findings in its own report of an incident. As a general rule, the Coast Guard will investigate all deaths that occur in US waters and all incidents that have potential environmental consequences.
National Transportation Safety Board
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an "… independent U.S. government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation." In general, the NTSB will investigate any fatal accident that involves a commercial vehicle or any accident that causes the release of potentially toxic materials into the environment. Interestingly, the NTSB has no authority to arrest anyone and is limited to making reports and recommendations based on its investigations.
Agencies and Sub-agencies
It is common to find that an accident occurred on "public" land or waterways. If this is the case, then it is likely that a state or federal government agency had "control" of the location where an accident happened and could have been at least partially responsible for that accident. Even if no government agency was involved, directly or indirectly, in an accident, their records may help establish the circumstances that led to the accident itself.
Phase III: Preparation
The "Preparation" stage involves integrating all the available information regarding a drowning accident lawsuit into a single unit. It is during this stage that witnesses are interviewed under oath ("deposed") and the testimony of expert witnesses is arranged.
Phase IV: Trial
Although a significant number of drowning accident lawsuits are "settled" without having to go to trial, a lawyer will always assume that he or she will have to present the client's case to a judge and jury. This phase is also known as the "Make or Break" phase, meaning that, with rare exceptions, the verdict reached will be enforceable by the court regardless of which side "wins" the lawsuit.
Finding a Lawyer to Manage Your Drowning Accident Lawsuit
Due to their potential complexity, drowning accident lawsuits are best managed by a lawyer who has training and experience in areas such as:
- Knowledge of legal practice and procedure in the state where the drowning accident occurred
- Conducting extensive accident investigations using information obtained from multiple sources
- Evaluating various types of evidence
- Contacting and hiring expert witnesses
- Presentation of complex scientific data in a manner that can be understood by those without a technical/scientific background
When you contact our firm to arrange a free review of your drowning accident case, your initial consultation with us is always free of charge and does not obligate you to hire our firm. If you later decide that we should represent you in your drowning accident lawsuit, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.
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