Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident Handling the death of a loved one is one of life’s greatest challenges. The pain can be even greater when their death is unnecessary, such as when a loved one dies in a car accident.

If you’ve lost a loved one in a car crash, you may need some time to yourself to heal and cope with your tragic loss. However, it’s important to speak to a Atlantic City wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after their passing to discuss your case. A claim for wrongful death allows you to fight for justice and fair compensation for your loss.

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What is Considered a “Wrongful Death?”

As the name indicates, a wrongful death occurs when a person passes away under wrongful circumstances. The death is typically the result of negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions.

A wrongful death occurs at the hands of another. For this reason, the deceased victim’s family may have the opportunity to take legal action against the responsible party for financial recovery.

Wrongful Death Following a Car Accident

Car accidents happen every single day. Depending on the severity of the accident and the factors contributing to the crash, a collision can end in a tragic fatality. The victims of family members who have been killed by other drivers understand the pain of such an event.

Car Accident

Deaths from car accidents have only increased throughout the years. In a recent year, 46,980 individuals died in vehicular crashes. Despite improvements in vehicle safety features and stricter laws regarding distracted and impaired driving, fatal accidents continue to occur due to driver negligence.

Vehicular death rates vary by state but tend to be much higher in larger states with more traffic, such as Florida, California, and New York. States with lower car accident-related deaths include Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

While vehicle safety technology has improved throughout the years and keeps getting better, driver behavior strongly contributes to car accidents, often making protective features in a vehicle less effective.

Deaths from car crashes are typically preventable, which further adds to the hurt of losing a loved one. If your loved one has died in a car accident, it’s best to seek legal assistance right away and pursue justice.

Common Causes of Car Crashes that Result in Death

Car accidents occur for a wide variety of reasons. However, certain causes of car accidents are more likely to result in fatalities, including:

  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Distracted driving
  • Driver fatigue
  • Road conditions
  • Vehicle defects and malfunctions

These dangerous driving behaviors and situations can increase the chances of a serious car crash involving extensive injuries and death. It’s essential to correctly determine the cause of the collision, as cause plays an essential role in car accident wrongful death cases.

Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims fall under the umbrella of personal injury law. Personal injury law, also called tort law, allows injured victims to seek justice and financial recovery for the harm caused by another party.

Typically, injured victims file their own lawsuits against at-fault parties. However, in wrongful death cases, because the victim has passed away, the surviving family members take the victim’s place and recover for their losses.

Wrongful death claims can be particularly challenging to deal with, as they often force family members to relive their loved one’s death. Nonetheless, obtaining compensation for wrongful death can substantially help relieve much of the financial burden families face after the untimely loss of a loved one.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit. It’s necessary to examine your state’s laws, as every state handles wrongful death claims differently.

Wrongful Death

Personal representatives are often required to file wrongful death claims. A personal representative, also called an executor, is the individual in charge of a person’s estate after their passing. Included in their duties may be handling the decedent’s wrongful death case.

In other states, a victim’s surviving family member can file the claim. Depending on the situation, this can include:

  • Spouses
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Financial dependents

A local wrongful death lawyer can explain your state’s laws and requirements for filing a wrongful death claim after a car accident.

Compensation Available for Wrongful Death Claims

Damages for wrongful death aim to compensate the victim's families for the losses they’ve incurred as a result of their loved one passing away. Compensatory damages cover both monetary and non-monetary losses.

Some of the damages that may be available in your wrongful death claim include:

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost earnings and benefits the victim would have received
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of care and companionship
  • Loss of consortium

Additionally, punitive damages may be available in certain cases. Punitive damages differ from compensatory damages, as they don’t aim to compensate the victim's families. Instead, if the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent, malicious, or intentional, punitive damages can punish the defendant and deter future actors from behaving in the same manner.

Accurately calculating your damages is critical to ensure you get full and fair compensation. A skilled attorney can thoroughly review the details of the wrongful death and assign a monetary value to your case.

Is there an “Average” for Wrongful Death Settlements?

One of the questions wrongful death attorneys most often receive is whether there is an average settlement amount for these types of cases. Because every case is unique, there is no average settlement surviving family members can expect to receive.

Determining how much your case is worth requires looking at several factors, including:

  • The age of the victim: While it may seem unfair, age plays a big part in determining the value of a wrongful death claim, as younger victims’ cases may be “worth” more than those of older individuals
  • The victim’s occupation: The more money the victim was earning and the more benefits they had, the more likely their case is worth more.
  • The victim’s family: The victim’s family size is essential to consider, as a larger family is likely to feel the loss of financial support even more.
  • Economic losses: Your attorney can examine evidence, such as medical bills and receipts for funeral expenses, to calculate the extent of your monetary loss from the death. 
  • Insurance policy limits: If the defendant’s insurance company pays damages, it’s necessary to look at policy limits, as this dictates how much money is available. 
  • State laws: Some states have certain damage caps, putting a limit on how much a plaintiff can receive from a wrongful death case. 

Carefully reviewing these details can help your wrongful death attorney determine how much your case is truly worth. Understanding the monetary value of your case is key to helping ensure you get the fairest possible case result.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be daunting and confusing, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the laws and procedures in your state. This is one of the primary reasons why seeking legal assistance is critical. A qualified attorney in your area can ensure your case gets handled timely and properly.

Establishing Liability

Establishing liability is one of the most critical parts of a wrongful death claim. Doing so depends on the details of the situation.

Establishing Liability

Many car accident wrongful deaths are the result of negligence. When a party is negligent, it means they have failed to act in a reasonable manner, just as a similarly situated person would have.

To establish a party’s negligence, you must satisfy the elements of negligence, including:

  • Duty owed: The defendant owed the victim a duty of care. 
  • Duty breached: The defendant’s actions resulted in a breach of their duty of care.
  • Causation: The defendant’s wrongful actions were the cause of the car accident.
  • Damages: The car accident resulted in the victim’s death. 

Proving negligence requires proof, which a wrongful death attorney can acquire. Strong evidence includes:

  • Police reports
  • Surveillance and traffic camera footage
  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Witness statements
  • Expert witness testimony

Showing how the at-fault party’s wrongful behavior resulted in the victim’s death is vital to get you one step closer to reaching beneficial compensation for your losses.

Overview of the Wrongful Death Claim Process

The exact wrongful death process depends on state law and the circumstances of your case. Therefore, a wrongful death attorney in your area can give you a better idea of what you can expect.

Oftentimes, your lawyer will start out by sending a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance company. The demand letter includes information about the accident and details concerning the insured’s liability. Your attorney requests a dollar amount that represents the value of your case and asks for a settlement.

The insurance company can accept the demand and settle, or they can engage in settlement negotiations. Sometimes, the insurance company will flatly refuse to settle, at which point your lawyer can proceed with legal action.

Once your lawsuit is filed in court and the opposing party receives service and files their response to your petition, the case formally commences. At this point, the parties enter into the discovery phase.

Discovery involves both parties obtaining answers and information concerning the case. With this, they can build their cases and strengthen their arguments. This portion of a lawsuit takes the longest, especially for more complex and involved cases.

After discovery has ended and parties have what they need for their cases, you can move on to seeking a resolution.

Settlement vs. Trial

Civil cases are resolved either by reaching a settlement or going to trial.

Ideally, your case will settle. Obtaining a settlement usually involves settlement negotiations between parties until an agreement is reached. Settling a case benefits all parties, as it can save plenty of time, money, and additional hassle.

When a case is unable to settle and parties cannot reach an agreement, the case goes to trial. At trial, the judge (or jury) is the decision maker. They can determine which party “wins,” and if you win your case, how much you’re entitled to receive.

Fortunately, most wrongful death cases are settled outside of court. Once your case is resolved, you’ll obtain payment and finally move on with your life.

How Long Does a Family Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Following the loss of a loved one in a car accident, the last thing you probably want to think about is a legal battle. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that there is only a short amount of time to take action for wrongful death. Depending on your state’s laws, you may have one to six years to file your lawsuit in court.

The sooner you act, the better it is for your case, and the more time your lawyer has to efficiently handle your claim. Waiting too long can be detrimental to your case. Missing this deadline can result in losing the right to get any justice or financial recovery for your loss.

Determining Whether You Have a Valid Wrongful Death Claim

If you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident, you may wonder whether you have a claim for wrongful death. The curiosity may lead you to consult with the internet or others who may have been in similar situations. Still, nothing is better than getting legal guidance from a wrongful death attorney.

A lawyer experienced in handling wrongful death cases is the best resource. An attorney can address your questions and concerns, help you understand wrongful death cases, and give you qualified legal advice.

When you’ve lost a loved one in a car wreck, schedule a consultation with a local wrongful death lawyer. A knowledgeable wrongful death attorney can determine whether you have a viable claim.

After Losing a Loved One in a Car Accident, Consult a Wrongful Death Lawyer

Money can never bring your loved one back, but it can help you shoulder the financial burdens that often arise from a death. If your loved one has passed away in a car accident, do not wait to speak with a wrongful death attorney about your case.

Gabriel Levin Author Image

Gabriel Levin - Attorney

Gabriel Levin is a highly experienced and credible attorney with over 10 years of practice in Pennsylvania. Known for his tenacity, he has represented clients in a wide range of civil matters, trying hundreds of cases. He prepares each case as if it will go to trial, ensuring meticulous attention to detail.

Unlike many firms that delegate tasks, Levin personally handles every aspect of a case and maintains open communication with clients throughout. He has secured millions in compensation, making him a reliable choice for those seeking legal representation.

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