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Wrongful Death Claims for Victims of Car Accidents

When a negligent driver causes an accident, it often leads to injuries for the victims. Some injuries are so severe that they can be fatal. When a victim of a car accident dies due to the negligence of another, the victim’s family members have a claim for wrongful death. A wrongful act includes negligence that would have given the deceased a cause of action in law if that person had not died. If the accident results in the victims’ death, the victim’s relatives may file a wrongful death claim. The following persons are eligible to file a wrongful death action on behalf of the deceased:

  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • Child
  • Siblings

If no spouse, parent, child, or siblings survived the deceased, an action may still be filed, and any damages awarded will be distributed to any person related to the deceased by blood or marriage. In Delaware, only family members can file an action for wrongful death, not the estate of the deceased.

Time Limits

In Delaware, a wrongful death action must be brought within two years from the date of death. A wrongful death action brought by relatives of the deceased is considered a civil action that is limited to damages. However, a wrongful death action may be brought in criminal court as well. A prosecutor brings a criminal action against the negligent driver. This type of action is most common in drunk driving accidents.

How to Prove Wrongful Death Claims

The plaintiff has the burden to prove each element of the wrongful death claim. The plaintiff must present evidence of the defendant’s negligence.  The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached a duty of care toward the deceased. In a car accident, this can be proven when the defendant has failed to obey traffic laws. If the plaintiff offers proof that the defendant was distracted while driving or was driving under the influence of alcohol, the plaintiff has shown that the defendant breached a duty of care owed to the deceased. However, the plaintiff also needs to establish that the breach of the duty of care by the defendant caused the death. If the death was caused by an independent incident, it will not be enough to prove a claim for wrongful death.

Damages in Wrongful Death Actions

Damages are awarded by the jury in a civil case upon a finding of guilt. Factors considered in determining the damages include the following:

  • Expenses related to funerals
  • Lost income
  • Loss of spousal support
  • Pain and suffering of the relatives
  • Medical expenses incurred before death due to the accident
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of Consortium

Survival Action

A survival action is another type of action that can be brought against a defendant when their breach of duty causes death. This is different from a wrongful death action in that it is brought on behalf of the decedent as opposed to by family members of the decedent. This type of action contemplates recovery for the pain and suffering suffered by the decedent from the time the injury was inflicted to the moment of death.

In a survival action, the injury does not cause an instantaneous death. There is an interval of time between when the injury occurred till the time of death. The action seeks to compensate for the pain and suffering caused to the decedent during that interval of time.

Although the death of a loved one due to a car accident can be devastating, it is important to take immediate action to investigate and prepare the claim. It is understandable that due to the shock of the loss, many family members are overwhelmed and do not wish to pursue legal action. However, a legal action may be necessary to ensure that the wrongful actor is made responsible for the damages incurred due to the death of the loved one.

Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Clients with Wrongful Death Claims

If you wish to file a wrongful death claim, contact the Delaware car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC today. We can evaluate your case and ensure that your family receives just compensation. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-569-8488 or 302-888-1221. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.