Wrongful Death in a Car Accident
Driving is a dangerous activity. Whether people realize it or not, getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle or riding a motorcycle is more risky than flying on an airplane, hopping on a train across the state, or taking a boat ride down the river. Driving is one of the most hazardous activities that we do.
Because of the fundamental danger of driving, it is crucial always to be safe, never drink alcohol or take drugs and drive, and not text and drive. In 2021 alone, distracted driving accidents caused 3,522 people to lose their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Accidents still happen despite the overwhelming amount of information about careless or unsafe driving. When someone's actions lead to another person's death, the deceased's loved ones may be entitled to compensation for that wrongful death.
Wrongful death car accident cases can happen for various reasons, such as:
- Negligence or recklessness by another motorist
- Criminal activity
- A manufacturing defect by the automaker
Below you will find key information about wrongful death car accidents, including the common causes of car accidents, your options when filing a claim, and where to find an experienced attorney to assist you with a wrongful death suit.
What Are the Main Causes of Car Accidents?
Car accidents are common. Think about all the times you have been sitting in rush hour traffic listening to a traffic report on the radio where the announcer lists the number of car crashes in a given time. Common causes of fatal car accidents include:
- Texting and driving (distracted driving)
- Driving under the influence of drugs (including prescription drugs) and/or alcohol (DUI)
- Reckless driving (speeding, racing, passing when it is unsafe, etc.)
- Poor weather conditions
- Driver fatigue
- Street and highway defects
- Car manufacturing defects
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
Every state has some form of a wrongful death statute on the books. While all these laws have similarities, it is vital to know the specific laws in your state. You can verify statute of limitations filing deadlines and other requirements.
Typically, a state's wrongful death statute will require you to show several common elements. This includes showing the at-fault driver breached their duty of care and caused the auto accident, resulting in the decedent's death. Michigan's wrongful death statute is typical of what a grieving family must prove to win a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Another driver caused an accident that resulted in the death of your family member or loved one;
- The driver acted negligently, wrongfully, or was otherwise at fault for causing the accident;
- The deceased family member is survived by a spouse, child, or other dependents or beneficiaries; and
- There are monetary damages as a result of your loved one's death
Who Can File?
In order to have standing (the legal right) to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you typically must be an immediate family member, such as a surviving spouse, child, or parent of the deceased person. Frequently, the personal representative of the estate will be responsible for filing the suit on behalf of the decedent's estate and family members. But not every state has this requirement. For more information about how this process works, consult a wrongful death attorney in your state.
Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Case
If you are a surviving family member, you can usually file a civil lawsuit to recover damages for your financial losses. In many cases, the at-fault party has an insurance policy to cover the damages. Then the insurance company can pay out a wrongful death settlement to you. Or if your wrongful death case goes to trial, they could pay you a judgment if you prevail.
If the at-fault party is uninsured, then they are responsible for the damages. Damages can include both economic and non-economic damages in some states. Possible damages may include financial compensation for the following:
- Financial support
- Funeral costs/funeral expenses and burial expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Medical expenses/medical bills
Punitive damages may also be available in extreme cases. If the at-fault driver's acts were so bad, they may also face criminal charges. The criminal case is separate from the civil lawsuit.
Wrongful Death in a Car Accident: Related Resources
- State Civil Statute of Limitations
- Wrongful Death FAQ
- Wrongful Death Claims: Time Limits and the 'Discovery' Rule
Get an Attorney's Help With Your Wrongful Death Claim
Losing a loved one because of negligent or distracted driving is devastating. While the law can't bring that person back, it can help ease some financial burdens accompanying an untimely death. If you or someone you love is considering filing a wrongful death action because of a car accident, you'll greatly benefit from the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer to evaluate your claim.
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