When someone dies in a car accident, most of us have no idea how to cope. Unfortunately, car accidents are common in the United States, but we never expect them to happen. If you were in an accident, the trauma could increase. Losing a loved one in a car accident is one of the most challenging experiences many of us could ever face.
If you have seen someone die in a car accident, you are probably at a loss. Nothing can make up for what you’ve lost, yet you know that you need to move forward and do something to get your life back on track. Like most people, you are probably desperate for help and guidance on carrying on with your life.
If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. With help from medical professionals and a car accident lawyer, you can get back on your feet and start healing personally, physically, emotionally, and mentally from the crisis you endured.
What Will I Do if My Loved One Dies in a Car Accident?
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, there is probably a lot going through your mind. What will you do next, and what will happen to their things? What will you do without their income and their emotional support? A lawyer can’t help you with all of those things, but there are ways that a legal team can support you after you lose a loved one in a car accident.
The first thing you should do is find emotional and physical support if you need it. Reach out to professionals who can help you get on the road to recovering mentally and physically from the accident and all the damage that your losses cost you.
Once you’ve secured the medical and emotional help you need, you can start thinking about legal assistance. When your loved one dies in an accident, you lost a lot you never counted on losing.
- Emotional support
- Financial support
- A loving relationship
- Help around the house and much more
After an accident, you can seek legal help to recover compensation for all your losses. You can use this money to start paying off medical bills, end-of-life expenses, and other accumulated expenses as you adjust to life without your loved one.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under the law, wrongful death occurs when someone dies “due to the fault of another.” Sometimes, wrongful death may result from deliberate action such as murder. However, such crimes are usually tried in criminal court rather than civil court. People commonly bring wrongful death claims when another person’s negligence kills their loved one. A typical example is when someone dies in a car accident caused by another person.
If you lost a loved one to wrongful death in an accident caused by another person’s negligence, you might be able to file a suit against the person who caused your loved one’s death. This suit is known as a wrongful death claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Not just anyone is allowed to file a wrongful death claim. Only relatives closest to the deceased can seek compensation. These vary from state to state, but the surviving spouse and children usually bring these claims, and sometimes extended family members such as parents, siblings, or grandparents of the deceased.
Typically, the spouse and children have the right to the first claim, so the father and mother can only file a claim if the spouse and children are no longer alive or refuse to file a claim. Each state has a different hierarchy of who can file a claim and when, so speak with a car accident lawyer to learn more about your specific circumstances.
What Damages Can I Claim if My Loved One Dies in a Car Accident?
Depending on what state you live in, you may be able to claim a wide variety of damages as compensation for your suffering. Most commonly, you might be able to claim economic losses and non-economic losses.
While you should check with a lawyer to figure out what exactly you can receive in your case, common damages you may be able to pursue include:
- Loss of support: You might claim the amount of income the deceased would have provided to support you had they been able to work for the remainder of their life. For children, the loss of support usually ends when they graduate high school. Usually, only the surviving spouse and children of the deceased can claim loss of support— unless the deceased was supporting another family member.
- Loss of society with your loved one
- The grief and anguish you experience from losing your loved one: This is often calculated based on the closeness of the relationship between you and the deceased and how well you got along in life.
- Loss of services the deceased may have provided, including child support, help with housework, etc.
- Loss of wages if you can no longer work because your loved one died (e.g., if you have to stay home with your children).
- Your loved one’s medical, funeral, and end-of-life expenses
Again, while these are the common categories and types of damages you can recover, it’s essential to ask a lawyer for specifics if you’re unsure what damages apply in your case. You may be able to recover more or additional damages depending on how the accident happened and your circumstances.
How Do You Prove Who Is Responsible for a Car Accident?
To pursue compensation in a wrongful death claim, you have to prove that someone else caused your loved one’s death. For example, if your loved one died in a car accident, you must prove that the other driver caused the accident and, subsequently, caused your loved one’s death.
Proving this can be a challenge, depending on what evidence you have. If you are involved in an accident, there are some things that you can do to help prove that the other driver was responsible.
Here are some initial steps you can take at the accident scene:
- Call an ambulance. Always call 911 for medical help first and foremost. Even if you do not need medical assistance, you may use the medical records to prove the cause of death.
- Call the police. If you have time, call the police after an accident. A police report can help you prove how the accident happened, who was involved, who was a witness, and how to get in touch with all of these people later.
- Take photos. If you can move around safely at the accident scene, try to take pictures. Focus on capturing images of injuries and property damage to vehicles. Also, note any skid marks, debris on the road, or bad weather that may show what factors contributed to the accident.
- Talk to witnesses. Witness statements are crucial to any wrongful death claim. If you have the time, speak to all witnesses at the accident scene. If you don’t have time, then be sure you get their contact information. You want them to write down an account of what they saw as soon as possible while it is still fresh in their minds.
- Call a car accident lawyer. Once you have gathered the evidence you can from the accident scene and have received any necessary medical attention, call a lawyer. Lawyers will help you gather more evidence and begin the process of seeking compensation in a wrongful death suit.
- Keep all records and bills. If your loved one received medical treatment before their death, keep all records and bills related to their care. Keep receipts for end-of-life and funeral expenses as well.
- Gather paperwork. Document your losses as you begin to see the effects of a lost job (yours or your loved ones) and other financial difficulties. This paperwork will be helpful evidence your lawyer can use when putting together a wrongful death complaint.
How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?
Filing a wrongful death claim can be complicated. Contact a wrongful death lawyer in your area before you do anything else. A lawyer will know what to do to help you get your claim started properly.
These are typical steps in a wrongful death claim:
- Hire a lawyer to discuss what to do next and whether your claim might succeed.
- Gather evidence in support of your claim.
- File a complaint against the at-fault driver, i.e., the defendant.
- Receive a response from the other driver, likely with an initial settlement offer.
- Gather more evidence and help your lawyer with the discovery process, which will likely include depositions (verbal questioning) and interrogatories (written questionnaires) for all involved parties and witnesses.
- Negotiate for a settlement favorable to both sides.
- If the other party refuses to settle, take your case to court.
- Present your evidence before a judge or jury.
- Receive a verdict from the judge and jury about how much compensation you deserve.
Each state has time limits that require people to file wrongful death claims during a specific period, so it is crucial to speak with a lawyer in your area to ensure you do not miss a deadline.
Seeing a loved one die in a car accident is horrific. Money can never replace the relationship you lost. However, pursuing a wrongful death suit against the responsible driver can help you and your family get justice.
If you are not sure how to get started, but you know you need help after a car accident, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a wrongful death lawyer so that you can get back on your feet.