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What Happens When Someone Dies Due to a Car Accident?

What Happens When Someone Dies Due to a Car Accident?

what-happens-when-someone-dies-due-to-a-car-accidentIf your family member or someone close to you dies in a car accident, you may be feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn. You may feel like you are all alone in this, but know that you are not. Many people lose loved ones each year in accidents, and many of them go on to file wrongful death claims.

However, going through all the complexities of the law surrounding car accident cases while suffering from your loss is more of a torment. That is why, as an expert in the law, I advise surviving family members to get help from an experienced personal injury lawyer who handles car accidents and wrongful death cases. They can help you understand your rights and what you should do to obtain justice and recover compensation for your losses.

How Common Are Car Accidents?

how-common-are-car-accidents

More than 38,000 individuals die due to car accidents in the US alone every year. Furthermore, there are 4.4 million people who suffer severe injuries requiring medical attention yearly.

Unfortunately, some people didn't even make it to the hospital and died on the scene. In contrast, some are lucky enough to receive medical care and treatments. But, some of those who survived will have to endure physical, emotional, and mental suffering. In terms of sudden death, a victim who dies on the scene is usually caused by forceful trauma or overspeeding. These types of accidents can also be considered road fatalities.

What Commonly Causes Car Accidents?

commonly-causes-of-car-accident

There are plenty of reasons why car accidents occur. People should be well-informed about the dangerous activities that may put them at a greater risk of a car accident. These are as follows:

  • Distracted driving
  • Reckless driving
  • Drunk driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • Driving under the influence of drugs
  • Weather conditions
  • Speeding
  • Failure to follow traffic laws and regulations
  • Road rage
  • Poor roads and construction
  • Defective car parts

The At-Fault Party Might Face Criminal Charges, But Not Always

Most car accidents occur because drivers do not take the necessary means to drive carefully and responsibly. If that fatal car accident leads to the death of someone, the said driver is liable to face criminal charges.

Not all accidents result in death, only injuries. Yet, that doesn't mean the at-fault driver won't face any charges. If the driver's reckless or negligent behavior causes the accident, he will face law consequences.

The following circumstances may warrant a criminal investigation:

Speeding

speeding-car-accident

Drivers have their reasons for speeding, and usually, the reason is that they want to arrive at their destination faster. There is no problem with that, as long as it won't harm others.

A driver's minor punishment is a speeding ticket - if there's no harm done. But if it results in something more extensive, like injuries and death, criminal charges or prosecution are often imposed.

 

Drunk Driving

Drunk driving is one of the most common reasons for car accidents. And usually, even sober drivers don't know the harm they can do until it's too late. It is extremely illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The driver's license can get revoked. They can face multiple charges, pay fines, or even have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle.

Fatal car accidents associated with a DUI causing severe injuries or death will lead to criminal charges and lawsuits against the at-fault driver.

Reckless Driving

reckless-driving-car-accidentEvery driver has the responsibility to follow all the rules and regulations of traffic laws. And these laws are made to prevent car accidents, injuries, or death. However, some drivers are too reckless on the road, eventually causing car accidents. Violating the traffic rules will again lead to criminal charges against the liable driver.

 

 

Does the At-Fault Party Go to Prison When Someone Dies in a Car Accident?

It can be tough and challenging for the victim's family to cope when someone in the family dies due to a car accident. Some families even find it hard to proceed with legal charges or lawsuits after their loved one's death. Some try their best to file charges and blame the at-fault driver so he can go to prison or face the law consequences. However, not all drivers are subjected to criminal charges.

If the car accident resulting in death is beyond the at-fault driver's control, he won't be facing criminal charges. These include mechanical failures, poor road conditions, and acts of God (natural occurrences like flooding, tornadoes, hailstones, and storm).

Vehicular homicide can be charged if the result of the wrongful death claim is due to careless or reckless driving.

The district lawyer in the given area will also assess if the at-fault driver is accountable for the fatal accident. They will study carefully and consider many factors, including but not limited to the driver's behavior before the fatal car accident happened.

Overspeeding or failure to follow the road traffics and regulations are also possibilities for many fatal accidents, which can lead to death.

Insurance companies and law officers will also regulate thorough investigation and gathering of evidence. They are responsible for studying what happened in the car accident and who is responsible. Witnesses and drivers of vehicles will then be interviewed by these authorities too.

Every vehicle involved in the crash will be examined. In addition to that, law officers will administer an entire scene investigation to get further details about the car accident. They will look for marks, personal injury signs (even small ones that passengers have), and other proof of accidents on the road. These officers may also conduct surveillance footage, previous driving records, and blood tests for solid evidence.

The incident report is one of the most crucial documents in fatal car accidents. All of these will determine whether the driver is truly guilty or not. And if the driver proves to be criminally responsible for the car accident, he will go to prison. His sentence will depend on the charges that are filed against him. But usually, it could last for months or several years.

Filing a Wrongful Death Suit

filing-a-wrongful-death-suit

Of course, no amount of money can bring back the life of a lost loved one or make the pain go away. But the surviving family members can be free from the weight of the piled medical expenses, unsure financial future, and funeral and burial costs through a wrongful death suit. This lawsuit will transfer the burden to the at-fault party.

The parties eligible to file a wrongful death suit are considered to be the direct family of the victim. These include:

 

  • The legal spouse
  • Next of kin: minor or adult children (if no surviving spouse is available)
  • The victim's parent (if the victim is a minor)
  • The personal representative of the decedent's estate

How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?

Remember that a wrongful death lawsuit differs from the usual car accident lawsuit. In a wrongful death claim, the victim cannot file a lawsuit for already passed away. If your loved one dies due to a car accident and you want to recover compensation and receive justice, you first need to find out if you have a valid wrongful death claim.

The surviving family member can carry out a wrongful death lawsuit, including the spouse, children, or a domestic partner. The parent or guardian could file a suit if the victim was a minor. And once you've finally determined you have a valid wrongful death case, you have to speak to a personal injury attorney.

It's best to find a reliable and quality lawyer to handle your case. They must have extensive years of experience and good credibility in handling wrongful death cases. You deserve an attorney with solid records of excellent performance and resolved settlements to handle your case.

Once you hire a lawyer, they will immediately start investigating your case. They will look at medical bills, other expenses, and liabilities your loved one incurred before passing away. Other damages like lost wages or future earnings will also be looked at.

After that, your attorney will proceed to file a claim and then send a settlement demand to the at-fault driver's insurance company. The settlement demand is intended to obtain an amount that your lawyer believes to be your case's worth. Then the insurance company will state their settlement first offer. Negotiations will continue until fair or maximum compensation is attained. But if not, you and your lawyer can proceed to take your case to court for trial.

Before the trial begins, your case will first go into the "discovery" period. This period allows both sides a further investigation of the case. The defendant's party can dig deeper into the facts, medical records, police reports, statements, and other evidence. And your lawyer will also be doing the same thing towards the opposing side. There will be written and oral discovery.

Suppose no final settlement happens during the litigation. In that case, the case will go to trial, where the jury or judge will finally decide who is liable for the car accident and the lawsuit's outcome.

Should I Settle My Wrongful Death Case?

should-you-settle-your-wrongful-death-case

In times of grief, making a decision could be hard, especially when you're filing a case for your deceased loved one. There are times that you can be tempted to make rushed decisions or immediately accept a cash offer just to avoid the long lawsuit process. But that offer will never be worth it.

If you ever come to this point, keep in mind that urgent decisions like this are not worth it in the end. Don't worry about the long process because your attorney will be there for you until the end.

Most personal injury claims settle before trial. However, in some situations, the defendant's insurance company is not willing to pay for the monetary compensation the deceased person deserves. Your attorney will guide you in making the right decisions and explain your legal rights and options to you. Both of you will work together to win your case and get the compensation your deceased loved one deserves.

Recoverable Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

Funeral and Burial Costs

Funeral expenses are expensive. But the surviving family members can recover compensation for all burial and funeral costs after their loved one's death. Remember that family members can only legally claim this compensation if the deceased person's estate has already paid for these expenses initially.

Loss of Support

No money can ever suffice the loss of support children will experience once they lose a dearly loved parent. Children heavily rely on their parent's support. And as they grow up, they will still look for that emotional, physical, and financial assistance. Sudden death will take all that support away, affecting their emotional and psychological health.

Loss of Service

Suppose the deceased person does not have a job during the accident. That does not mean he no longer contributes to the household's economic value. In this case, the insurance company may still consider the loss of services which includes:

  • Yardwork
  • Childcare
  • Cooking
  • Housework
  • And other household chores

Loss of Companionship

Humans naturally depend on the companionship of the people around us. And the law considers the emotional and physical connection that married couples share. Insurance companies will also have to abide by the law and consider the loss of companionship the surviving spouse has experienced. Yet, this claim is still subjected and will depend on many factors.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are awarded by the court to prevent people from making mistakes out of irresponsibility and carelessness. Yet, punitive damages are not always standard. The court only takes into account punitive damages in extreme cases, such as:

  • Reckless driving
  • Overspeeding
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)

Survivor's Benefits

survivors-benefits-car-accident

Suppose you choose to file a wrongful death claim. In that case, you cannot claim survivor benefits. Survivors' benefits take into account the victim's rights only from the accident's date to the victim's death.

You can only choose between the two: claim the wrongful death compensation or claim the survivor benefits. You cannot claim both. This is why it's indispensable to talk to an experienced wrongful death attorney to know which one is best for your situation. Survivor's benefits can include:

Lost Wages

You may think and feel wrong to be concerned about money after the death of a loved one. But it is a wise decision to do so to prevent your surviving family members from suffering economic damages and agony. If the deceased was the primary income earner, it is necessary to do so. One of the wrongful death case considerations is lost wages. It includes any wages after the death of the victim. The amount the surviving members could be enough to assist the surviving family members. And the amount is a combination of the deceased's age, presumptive retirement age, and average income.

Medical Bills

Medical bills do cost high. Even just spending a few days in a hospital, especially in the emergency room or ICU, can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Survivors' action includes all medical expenses from the accident time to the victim's death.

Some insurance providers may limit coverage for specific types of care. ut usually, medical expenses include:

  • Medications or therapy
  • Surgery
  • Specialty care
  • Hospital stay
  • Medical devices
  • Home health care

Pain and Suffering

The death of a loved one can cause different aspects of pain and suffering. This is why the surviving family members have the right to seek damages and financial compensation for the emotional, physical, and psychological pain and suffering that they experience. The claim will then only cover expenses before the time the victim dies.

Who Is Financially Responsible When Someone Dies in a Car Accident?

 The Other Driver

In some cases, two drivers can be held accountable after a car collision. These two can have different levels of fault depending on the case. Florida uses the pure comparative negligence system. In this case, if your loved one was partially or mostly at fault, you can still file a wrongful death suit for them.

An Employer

If one or both drivers were on duty during the time of the accident, the driver's employer could also be liable for the car accident on some level.

If the fatal accident occurred because of the employer's unsafe practices, then the employer can be held liable for the accident.

A Government Agency

Rarely the state or local government can also be considered liable after the accident. Poor road conditions, damaged roadways, unsafe roads, missing directional devices, and lack of road maintenance can cause accidents that fall under the government's liability.

Suppose you want to succeed in your case against the government. In that case, you must find proof that the state or city is fully aware of these unsafe conditions and did not take appropriate action.

A Bar or Social Host

Bars and social hosts can also be held liable for car accidents when their drunk guest causes death or severe injury to someone. Florida's Dram Shop Law states that bar establishments or individual employees can be held liable if they knowingly served a person they knew has a drinking problem or is under 21 years old.

 How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

how-to-file-a-wrongful-death-lawsuit

Suppose you finally decided to take legal action against the at-fault party. In that case, it's of utmost importance to talk to our wrongful death attorney immediately. You will receive a free consultation for your first appointment. Once you book an initial appointment, our attorney will discuss your rights and let you understand the legal process and what you should be expecting from the case.

Although plaintiffs in most personal injury cases have four years, the surviving family members only have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A d this will start from the time of the victim's death.

This procedure usually starts with a demand to the defendant's insurance company. After that, the insurance company will or will not respond with a counter-offer. It is up to you if you want to settle. Suppose you cannot have an agreement with the company. In that case, your lawyer can file a motion with the court. The majority of car accident cases settle outside of court. But some end up making it to court.

Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer if Your Loved One Died Due to a Car Accident Caused by Another's Negligence

wrongful-death-lawyer-near-me

If you lost someone close in a fatal car accident due to another's negligence, you must seek the help of a professional who handles wrongful death cases. A the Soffer Firm Miami Personal Injury Attorneys, we have an experienced wrongful death lawyer who has helped numerous families to recover maximum compensation for their damages. We are here to answer any questions about wrongful death claims so you can get started on recovering from this tragedy. Reach us today at 786-788-7344 and get a free consultation.

The law limits how much time you have to file a wrongful death case. That's why you should act fast if someone close passes away due to a wrongful death accident.

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