According to the Association for Safe International Road Travels, more than 46,000 people die in car accidents every year in the U.S. Crashes are the top cause of death in the nation for people aged 1 to 54 years old. Accidents happen, and unfortunately, some of them are fatal.
The survivors of the deceased face shock, sorrow, and overwhelming emotions and struggle with whom to turn to for help. To attain the damages your family deserves, you need a knowledgeable lawyer to help you through a complex and emotional process. Learn more about how a lawyer can provide the legal support you need.
The tragic loss of life inflicts severe emotional damage on those left behind. Furthermore, families face financial strain and losses resulting from a fatal accident.
Money is never top of mind after a loved one’s death. For some people, insurance covers the expenses of a funeral, burial, and medical bills. However, these costs should not be the responsibility of the deceased family if someone else’s recklessness or negligence caused the fatal car accident. With the assistance and knowledge of a lawyer, a deceased’s dependents can seek compensation from the at-fault party for financial losses through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can File for Wrongful Death?
Under certain state law, the deceased’s estate representative can file a wrongful death suit. A close relative can also file a lawsuit if the deceased left no will and did not appoint a personal representative.
If the personal representative does not file for wrongful death within six months, the deceased’s beneficiaries may file a claim.
What Causes Fatal Car Accidents?
Driver error causes most fatal car accidents due to negligence or recklessness. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which compiles traffic accident statistics, tracks fatal accidents caused by speeding, alcohol impairment, and drowsy driving. The NHTSA projects that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021, a 10.5 percent increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020.
Most car accidents involve individual drivers responsible for their actions, but in some instances, multiple parties can be accountable. A lawyer can help you determine which parties are liable for the fatal accident.
The driver who causes a fatal accident may be charged with a crime. Suppose the accident violates any state traffic law or local traffic ordinance other than impaired driving. In this situation, the driver can be charged with a crime.
Requirements of a Wrongful Death Suit
Wrongful death laws vary from state to state, including who can file a claim. A wrongful death suit can be filed when someone negligently, recklessly, or intentionally causes the death of another person. When the person dies, an estate representative must be appointed to take over or the claim can no longer be pursued.
A wrongful death claim resulting from a fatal car accident requires proving that the defendant was at greater fault than the deceased driver. If the deceased was more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, recovery is barred.
Another action item is that it needs to be proven that the family member died from the car crash. This process can become complex, especially when there is a specific time between the accident’s occurrence and the person’s death. The cause of death can also be questioned if the person passed away with pre-existing health conditions. Sometimes, situations may arise where the accident and illness contribute to the their death. A lawyer can collaborate with doctors and other medical professionals when the cause of death is in question.
Compensation for Wrongful Death
Additionally, damages must be calculated. Certain types of damage claims are relatively easy to calculate. Lost future income can be projected by factoring in the deceased’s educational background and career history. Life expectancy can be estimated based on their age and overall health profile. You can add in current accumulated savings and property ownership, and one can create a reasonable future income and wealth projection.
The more complicated part is figuring out non-economic damages. What value do you place on lost love and companionship between the deceased and the family members? It is challenging and complex, but professionals have the knowledge to calculate these losses and figure out monetary amounts.
If surviving family members of the deceased file a wrongful death suit, the damages they can claim account for the total value of the loved one’s life. Those include compensation for the following:
- Medical bills for injuries caused by the car accident.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of income.
- Funeral costs.
These damages, known as economic damages, are easy to figure out because they include actual dollar amounts. A wrongful death suit can also include compensation for non-economic losses, such as:
- Physical pain and suffering of the deceased before they died.
- Mental anguish suffered by the deceased.
- Loss of companionship or care.
Often, family members can also sue for punitive damages. The main purpose of punitive damages is to punish the person at fault for doing reckless actions and with ill intent. An example of punitive damages could be a drunk driving accident.
How Long Do Family Members Have to Sue?
The length of time may vary from state to state. For a Pennsylvania wrongful death claim, the personal representative or executor must file suit no later than two years from the date of the decedent’s death. There are very few exceptions to this limitation. The age of the estate individuals can factor into the amount of time warranted.
How Can You Attain the Help You Need and Deserve?
Wrongful death claims are complex and require a high level of legal skill. If someone in your family was involved in a fatal car accident, you should seek the advice and counsel of a lawyer.
If you have experienced the tragedy of the wrongful death of a loved one in a car accident, you can be facing some of the most emotional times of your life. Do not suffer the emotional and financial consequences of dealing with that death alone. Reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Represent Clients Who Are Seeking Compensation for a Fatal Car Accident
If you lost a loved one in an accident due to the negligence of a driver, one of our experienced Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can help. Call us at 215-569-8488 or contact us online for a free consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, Media, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.