If someone you loved has been killed in a car accident, chances are, you’re confused, struggling, and unsure of how to proceed from here. You’ve heard about wrongful death lawsuits, and you think that you might have the right to compensation for your loved one’s death, but you aren’t even sure of how to proceed. By working with an attorney who specializes in wrongful death lawsuits, you’ll put yourself in a better position to deal with the difficult journey ahead.
Every year, nearly 1.3 million people die in accidents on the road—an average of more than 3,000 per day. More than 400,000 of the victims are under the age of 25. In the United States alone, approximately 32,000 people die each year due to accidents on the road. Their loss represents a gaping hole in their family’s lives, and it’s not always just an emotional loss: many people end up with significant financial loss along with the rest of the pain and suffering. Consider the following:
Losing a loved one in a car accident isn’t just devastating emotionally. It can also cause financial devastation. In many cases, however, you’ll find that a wrongful death settlement can help cover the expenses associated with that death, giving you a little more time to get your balance back and get your feet back under you without having to worry about your expenses.
Your loved one has been a victim of a fatal car accident, but does that mean that you can get a settlement? According to the state of Pennsylvania, wrongful death occurs when one person’s death occurs as the result of the negligence, reckless behavior, or violent behavior of another individual. This certainly applies to reckless or neglectful behavior behind the wheel of a car, including:
Some accidents are impossible for the drivers involved in the crash to prevent. In other cases, however, accidents are caused by negligence or reckless behavior—and in those cases, you may have the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death lawsuits aren’t always filed against the individuals involved in the accident, either. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, you may have grounds for a wrongful death suit against other individuals. There are several causes of wrongful death accidents that aren’t related to the drivers, including:
Wrongful death lawsuits can also be filed if your loved one died while riding in paid conveyance—that is, if they were in an Uber, a taxi, or another vehicle where unsafe driving behaviors took place. In many cases, understanding who was at fault for the accident can be a complicated issue. If you’re struggling to define whether or not your loved one’s death qualifies as a wrongful death case, consider whether or not they would have grounds for a personal injury claim if they were still alive. The same circumstances apply to both types of lawsuits. The only difference is that in this case, the person injured is unable to make the claim themselves.
If your loved one died as a result of a car accident in the state of Pennsylvania, ask some of these key questions to determine whether or not you have the right to a wrongful death lawsuit and compensation for your loss.
Who was at fault for the accident? If the accident was ruled as being the fault of your loved one by the officer on the scene, you likely can’t hold the other driver or drivers responsible for their death. In some cases, you may be able to win a partial settlement from the insurance companies involved even if your loved one was partially at fault. Pennsylvania has “comparative fault” laws, under which it will be decided what percentage your loved one was at fault for the accident. Their percentage will then be deducted from the total amount of a damages award. Note that if your loved one was more than 50% responsible for the accident, you probably won’t be able to receive compensation through a wrongful death settlement.
What were the circumstances of the accident? In some cases, the driver of the other car may have done everything reasonably possible in order to prevent the accident. If you’re not sure whether or not your loved one’s death qualifies as a wrongful death accident, a free consultation with a wrongful death attorney can help you determine whether or not you should pursue your case.
How long has it been since the accident? In the state of Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations on a wrongful death lawsuit is two years. This means that if more than two years has passed since the accident, you can no longer pursue a lawsuit. On the other hand, if you are within that two-year limit, you can still file for a wrongful death lawsuit. While there may be some exceptions to this two-year limit, it’s important to file a wrongful death claim as soon as possible in order to ensure that the courts will hear the case, and to ensure relevant evidence is preserved and collected promptly.
What is your relationship to the deceased? According to Pennsylvania law, only the person responsible for handling the estate of the deceased individual is able to file a claim. If, however, that individual chooses not to file the claim within the first six months after the death, any of the legal beneficiaries of the deceased are able to file the claim. This claim is filed on behalf of all of the beneficiaries, and the settlement will be divided, at the end of the case, among the beneficiaries of the deceased individual’s estate.
Losing a loved one is an expensive proposition. While a wrongful death settlement won’t replace them, it can help deal with many of the expenses associated with their loss. This may include:
The amount that you can expect from a wrongful death settlement will vary based on a number of factors, including the earning potential and contributions of your family member, the circumstances of the accident, and the expenses associated with their death. It’s important to work with a lawyer as you navigate this difficult process, since your lawyer will be able to give you a better idea of exactly what to expect from your own case.
In the state of Pennsylvania, drivers must turn first to their own personal injury protection insurance policies to acquire compensation for car accidents, including medical expenses, car repairs, and lost wages from work. It doesn’t matter who is ruled at fault for the accident in these cases, especially where property damage is minimal. It is only when the expenses associated with the accident exceed the amount of that coverage that it is possible to pursue further action against the driver who was responsible for the accident.
In wrongful death cases, however, the no-fault law does not apply. The expenses associated with the death typically far exceed the maximum coverage of personal injury protection policies. In this case, it is possible to pursue legal action against the individual or company who has been ruled responsible for the death.
Many people avoid taking on a wrongful death lawsuit because they fear it will be too expensive. They’ve already lost a loved one, and chances are, the insurance company is offering them a settlement. That settlement, however, is often the lowest number an insurance company feels that they can get away with offering. Insurance companies are responsible for paying out a certain amount, but they may choose to limit that amount as much as possible, especially if they catch you when you are grieving, struggling, and can convince you to sign the settlement paperwork. Instead, consult with a lawyer before signing. They’ll give you a better idea of what you should expect from your lawsuit.
Your initial consultation with a lawyer doesn’t have to be expensive. At The Levin Firm, we’ll offer you a free consultation to discuss your case and your options. In many cases, we can receive payment on a contingent fee basis—that is, we don’t get paid until you win your case. We’ll take our fees out of the wrongful death settlement or judgment, allowing you to get the justice you need without having to worry about how you’re going to afford an attorney.
If you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident and need to know whether or not you have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit, contact us online or call us at (215) 825-5183. We’ll schedule a free consultation to discuss your loved one’s accident, learn more about who was at fault, and determine whether or not you have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.
If someone you loved has been killed in a car accident, chances are, you're confused, struggling, and unsure of how to proceed from here. You've heard about wrongful death lawsuits, and you think that you …August 24, 2018
Commercial truck accidents occur more often than you may know in and around Philadelphia. In July, a car became wedged under a tractor-trailer in what is commonly called an underride accident, in nearby Bellmawr. A …July 31, 2018
If you work with lots of large, heavy machinery, you may well work in the dangerous profession of construction work. In fact, construction is one of the most treacherous kinds of work you can engage …view more