Car accidents don’t always result in serious injury, but there are many cases each year of car accidents that result in a loss of life. These accidents are often the result of negligence of one party, as in the case of a drunk driver, but there are many reasons that wrongful death can occur.
If your loved one was killed in a car accident, you can seek the assistance of a wrongful death lawyer to help you to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for this loss. The settlement that is paid out will not bring back your loved one, but you will have bills to pay and your family might need the extra support financially.
For many families, a wrongful death settlement is worth the effort and heartache over the long run. Securing a skilled attorney can make the process far less difficult and it is never recommended that you and your family try and navigate the case without help.
Read on to learn more about wrongful death after a car accident.
What Makes a Car Accident a Wrongful Death Accident?
Unlike a situation where someone drives off the road due to weather, or cases where a fender-bender causes damage to two cars and no one is injured, wrongful death cases are more serious. This kind of case is brought when a person is killed through the negligence of someone else. In the case of car accidents, one party is usually under the influence of substances, or is behaving recklessly.
These cases will require that you secure the help of a lawyer to represent your case. Your lawyer will know which type of wrongful death case to bring to trial on your behalf, and they will know how to navigate settlement offer calculators to secure the correct settlement amount for you and your family.
Getting the right settlement amount can make it possible for your family to get back on their feet after the accident. If you are not able to secure a settlement that fully covers your medical bills and other costs, you might be forced to make payments on debts for years. The settlement will not bring back your loved one, but the settlement amount can help you to move on with your life without being burdened by bills and other stresses.
What are the Causes of Wrongful Death Car Accidents?
This term can apply to many kinds of accidents, but the most common ones are related to pedestrians versus cars or fatal car accidents related to driver negligence. Driver negligence can be due to:
- Texting while driving
- Drunk driving
- Driving without a driver’s license
- Failing to follow the rules of the road
- Running a stop light or red light
- Street racing
- Neglecting to see a crosswalk
- Driving without proper lights on the car
These behaviors are forbidden by law and people who break the law in these ways can cause significant harm to other people on the road.
What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Case?
These cases are opened and pursued by loved ones who are left behind by the person who was in the accident. The fundamental basic element in all of these cases is proof of liability. Without proof that the person who caused the accident was liable, you cannot seek damages in a wrongful death case.
You will need proof of certain factors before you can seek a wrongful death case. The circumstances of the case overall will guide how much you can ask for in your settlement. You will need to prove that:
- The fatal accident did occur
- The liable party owed the decedent a duty of care
- The fatal accident was the result of this breached duty of care
- The surviving loved ones have suffered emotional, financial and physical consequences as a result of the loss of their loved one
- The liable party breached duty of care which led to the accident.
The damages that are awarded in a wrongful death case can vary depending on the reasons for the accident and the actions which led to it. Medical bills, pain and suffering and loss of property will all be considered when the case is prepared.
Each wrongful death case will have a statute of limitations and a time limit on filing a claim, so you should always act fast if you want to bring this kind of case to trial to seek compensation for the loss of your loved one.
How Much Should You Ask for in a Wrongful Death Case?
These cases can award very large settlements, especially in cases where the main source of income for a family has been lost along with a loved one. If there is more than one family member who was involved in the accident, this can also lead to a higher-than average settlement amount.
This is an area without as much guidance related to settlement amounts, and you could be awarded as little as $1,000, or you might get millions of dollars. The age and income of the lost loved one can affect the ultimate amount that is asked for as well.
An attorney who is skilled in this kind of case will know how to calculate a reasonable request for you to make in your case. The amount of money that is paid out by auto insurance will never cover all of the bills associated with this kind of car accident, and a qualified attorney will know what the proper amount of money to request will be depending on the factors of your case.
How Will The Settlement Amount be Calculated?
Your attorney will look at your medical bills, and the total cost of the accident in loss of property. Your attorney will also calculate into the settlement amount the loss of future income from your loved one. You might also be able to prove that you will lose benefits like health insurance, pension and inheritance. Funeral and burial costs will be included, as will associated legal fees.
Some states will have damage caps that are figured into these calculations. These are maximum limits on how much can be sought for each kind of case. Since wrongful death cases can lead to large settlements in many cases, these caps are meant to prevent exorbitant pay outs for wrongful death cases.
In Virginia, for example, medical malpractice cases are capped at $2.4 million. Your attorney will know all of the rules related to these regulations and will make sure that this cap is included in the determination of the right settlement amount to seek.
How to Negotiate a Wrongful Death Settlement
You could try to handle a wrongful death case yourself, but it is usually best to secure the expertise of a wrongful death attorney to help you with the case. This process is complicated and there are many moving parts, even when you do have the help of legal counsel.
Engage Your Attorney
Make sure that you find an attorney with lots of experience with wrongful death cases. This is essential if you want to have a good outcome to your case and if you are intending to seek a large amount of damages.
Obtain a Death Certificate
You will have to have a death certificate in hand from your local department of health to be able to initiate a wrongful death case. This is the basic evidence that there is a need for legal remedy of your case.
Document Details of the Accident
This is a hard process to have to go through, but it must be done. Your lawyer will need to go over all the details of the case with you, and with anyone else who was present at the accident. If you were not there, witnesses to the accident will be questioned and photos of the scene of the accident will be taken.
Experts may be hired to help document and prove speeds involved and actions that were taken. Reconstruction of the accident site may be necessary before your case goes to trial.
Pick a Representative of the Estate
If an estate representative has not been determined already, you and your family will need to pick someone to be the representative of the estate and to manage the will. An attorney will be able to help with this process if there is no will in place.
This is the step where having an attorney on your side is the most helpful. A complete investigation will need to be done into the reasons for the accident. There may be photo and video evidence that needs to considered to build the case and experts might be needed to calculate the speeds involved in the accident.
Your attorney will hire experts and talk to witnesses. Interviews will be essential to the claim process as well as the court case. This is particularly true if no one from the family was involved in the accident.
What to Expect From Insurance
Insurance companies are always motivated to seek the smallest settlement amount possible for your claim. This is how they save money to pay out on other claims, and they feel it is good business to try and offer the smallest pay outs possible for claims.
Your attorney will make sure that the settlement that you might be offered takes into consideration medical and funeral bills, loss of future income, the family’s overall financial picture, and any loss of property. Your attorney will work with the adjuster from the insurance company to try and get you the settlement that you deserve for your loss.
This can be a long-term process and it can take many months to see your settlement payment. Families who have lost their primary bread winner will need to take this into consideration. You should never accept an offer that does not seem like it will cover your losses. This can make the process take longer, but if you get the settlement that you deserve at the end of the day, it will have been worth it.
What Are Possible Problems That Might be Caused by the Insurance Company?
Your insurance company will follow a specific process when a wrongful death case is brought to them. They will tender a claim which starts the process to investigate the claim and eventually determine a settlement amount.
After this, it will be determined if the claim has been made in good faith. Good faith means that the parties involved in the claim are not seeking fraudulent payment or lying about the reasons behind the accident itself. This works in both directions as well.
If the auto insurance company is found to be acting in bad faith, your attorney can get them back on track. An attorney is very helpful when dealing with an insurance company because it is all too common for them to drag their feet with regard to payment or to attempt to reduce the settlement without basis.
Wrongful Death Cases Are Difficult and Require Special Care
There is nothing that is more upsetting than losing a loved one. Many people are so uncomfortable with the thought of having to think about the accident that they want to avoid having to seek settlement for their loss.
There can be many expenses and other factors that make a settlement the only way to survive the financial blow that can be caused by a wrongful death case. In addition, the person who caused the death of your loved one should be held accountable for their dangerous actions so that they do not harm anyone else.
While it can be daunting and upsetting to seek damages for a wrongful death case, you will want to secure yourself legal representation and open a claim as soon as possible. The process will take some time, but if you have lost a loved one and have paid medical bills while also suffering the loss of their income, you will be glad that you did so.