First, you must realize that the only person who is authorized to hire an attorney on a wrongful death claim is the Personal Representative or Administrator of the estate. As set forth above, for the initial period after the victim’s death, only certain people are generally going to be permitted to qualify by the Clerk to be the personal representative. Just because you are a grandparent or a brother or sister of the deceased does not mean you have the power to become personal administrator or do anything on behalf of the estate of the deceased.
Therefore, if you feel that an attorney should be hired in a claim, you should approach those people whom the Clerk would qualify, whether they be the spouse of the deceased, or the custodial parent of a deceased child, and encourage them to obtain the Death Certificate, speak to an attorney, and get to the Clerk’s office as soon as possible in order to get appointed as administrator, so that they can hire the attorney and proceed with the claim. Until that happens, no one can really do anything on behalf of the estate.
As far as attorneys’ fees, I cannot speak for other attorneys; however, our law firm does not charge any upfront attorneys fees on wrongful death claims. Our fee agreements provide for a contingency fee of 25% of the gross recovery obtained on behalf of the estate, plus reimbursement of expenses out of the recovery in the event of settlement, or 33.3% the gross recovery, plus reimbursement of expenses out of the recovery in the event of a trial and verdict.