Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident

Written By: Darl Champion

Date Posted: 05.14.24

Category: Wrongful Death

While the severity of car accident injuries has generally decreased over time thanks to enhanced vehicle safety features, severe and even fatal injuries still occur.

Losing a loved one in a car accident is a devastating experience that no one should have to endure. In addition to the emotional pain and suffering, financial burdens can result from the unexpected loss of a family member.

If you believe that your loved one’s death was the result of someone else’s negligence or misconduct, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

A lawyer can explain the process of filing a wrongful death claim after a car accident, including who can file such a claim and how the courts determine the monetary value of the lawsuit. An experienced wrongful death attorney in Woodstock can also guide you through this difficult process and fight for the justice and compensation you deserve.

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Understanding Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful DeathA wrongful death claim is a legal action that seeks to hold a person or entity accountable for the death of another person.

A wrongful death claim arises when the accident happened due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of another party and that negligence directly resulted in the death of an individual.

Typically, if the deceased party had lived and could have filed a personal injury claim, someone can file a wrongful death claim on their behalf.

How Wrongful Death Liability Works in a Car Accident Case

To establish liability in a wrongful death car accident case, claimants must generally prove:

  • Duty of Care: The defendant (the at-fault party) owed a duty of care to the victim. In the context of a car accident, this duty of care is usually implied, as all drivers have a responsibility to drive safely and follow traffic laws. However, the at-fault party might not be another driver.
  • Breach of Duty: The defendant breached their duty of care by acting negligently, recklessly, or intentionally. This can include actions such as speeding, distracted driving, drunk driving, or running a red light.
  • Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the victim’s death. This requires demonstrating that the accident and subsequent injuries directly resulted from the defendant’s actions or negligence.
  • Damages: The death of the victim resulted in damages, such as medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship for surviving family members.

Establishing these elements can be complex and requires a thorough investigation of the accident, gathering evidence, and expert testimony—all of which are best left to a well-versed wrongful death attorney.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In every state, only certain individuals are permitted to file a wrongful death claim, depending on their relationship or legal status to the decedent. Typically, the following parties have the right to file a wrongful death claim:

Spouse and Children

In most jurisdictions, the surviving spouse and children of the deceased are typically the first in line to file a wrongful death claim. These primary beneficiaries have suffered the most direct loss from the death of their loved one.

If there is no surviving spouse or children, the right to file a claim may extend to other family members, such as parents or siblings, depending on the specific laws of the jurisdiction.

Other Dependent Family Members

In some cases, family members who were financially dependent on the deceased may also file a wrongful death claim. This can include parents, grandparents, stepchildren, or other individuals who rely on the deceased for financial support.

Executors and Personal Representatives

Suppose the deceased had no surviving spouse, children, or dependent family members. In that case, the executor of the deceased’s estate or a personal representative may have the right to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate.

By hiring a wrongful death attorney in your state, you can better understand who should file a claim in your family and begin taking steps towards doing so.

Determining the Monetary Value of a Wrongful Death Car Accident Lawsuit

When calculating the monetary value of a wrongful death car accident lawsuit, the courts consider various factors to determine the appropriate compensation for the surviving family members.

Some key factors include:

  • Economic Damages: These are the tangible financial losses that the surviving family members have incurred as a result of the death. This can include medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income or financial support, and any other financial burdens directly related to the accident.
  • Non-Economic Damages: The surviving family members have experienced emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and loss of guidance and support from the deceased.
  • Punitive Damages: In some cases the court may award punitive damages. They punish the defendant for particularly egregious or reckless conduct and deter others from engaging in similar behavior instead of directly compensating for losses.

The specific calculation of damages can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the case. Always work with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can thoroughly evaluate the losses suffered by the surviving family members and advocate for the maximum compensation available.

The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful Death Claim After a Car AccidentAfter losing a loved one in a car accident, you may feel grief, anger, and confusion about what to do next, but you may need to move quickly.

The statute of limitations refers to the time limit to file a lawsuit after a wrongful death has occurred. In most states, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is typically within two years of the date of the accident.

The clock begins ticking on the date of the death. However, always consult an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible, as some states have shorter or longer time limits.

Failing to file a wrongful death claim within the statute of limitations can result in the court dismissing your case. This means that you can no longer pursue legal action against the responsible party, regardless of the strength of your case.

Always act swiftly and consult an attorney who handles wrongful death cases. They can guide you through the legal process and ensure your case is filed within the appropriate time frame.

Time is of the essence when it comes to filing a wrongful death claim. Contact a trusted attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and confidently navigate the legal process. Seeking legal action cannot bring your loved one back, but it can provide you with the financial support and closure needed to move forward.

Is There an Average Payout for Car Accident Deaths?

While no amount of money can ever replace the loss of a life, filing a wrongful death claim can provide some financial relief and justice for the surviving family members. One common question that arises during this difficult time is whether there is an average payout for car accident deaths.

Every wrongful death case is unique, and the compensation awarded can vary widely depending on several factors.

Some of the critical factors that can affect the payout in a car accident wrongful death claim include:

  • The extent of the victim’s injuries
  • The circumstances surrounding the accident
  • The financial losses suffered by the surviving family members

In general, wrongful death payouts in car accident cases are determined based on various factors. These can include medical expenses related to the victim’s final injury or illness, funeral and burial costs, lost future income and benefits, loss of companionship and emotional support, and the pain and suffering experienced by the victim before their death.

The compensation awarded in such cases aims to address the financial losses incurred by the family and provide a sense of justice for the negligence or wrongful actions that led to the fatal accident.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of losing a loved one in a car accident, be sure to consult with a wrongful death attorney to understand your legal rights and options. An experienced wrongful death lawyer will review the details of your case, gather essential evidence, and help build a strong claim on your behalf.

They will work diligently to negotiate with insurance companies and hold the negligent parties accountable for their actions. Most importantly, they will fight for the maximum compensation you and your family deserve.

How Long Does It Take to Receive a Wrongful Death Settlement?

One of the most common questions that people have when considering a wrongful death claim is how long it will take to receive a settlement. While every case is unique and can vary in duration, several factors can change the timeline for a wrongful death settlement.

First, recognize that pursuing a wrongful death claim is a complex process that requires careful investigation, negotiation, and legal knowledge. The timeline for a settlement will depend on the case’s specific circumstances, including the strength of the evidence, the willingness of the responsible party to negotiate, and the challenges of proving liability and calculating damages.

Motorcycle - Car Accident

One of the first steps in the process is gathering the necessary evidence to support the claim. This may involve obtaining police reports, gathering witness statements, collecting medical records, and consulting accident reconstruction experts.

The thoroughness of this investigation can significantly affect the duration of the case, as you and your lawyer must have a clear understanding of the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident.

Once the evidence has been gathered, the next step is negotiating with the responsible party’s insurance company or legal team. This negotiation process can take time, as both parties may need to exchange documentation, engage in settlement discussions, and evaluate the strength of each other’s arguments.

Settlement negotiations can be challenging, so you should hire a wrongful death attorney who can advocate for your best interests and ensure you receive fair compensation for your loss.

In some cases, if insurance companies do not offer a fair settlement following negotiations, the case may proceed to litigation. This can prolong the timeline further, as court schedules and proceedings can add delays.

However, most wrongful death cases resolve through settlement rather than trial, as this can help expedite the process and avoid the emotional strain of a courtroom battle.

Ultimately, you should approach a wrongful death claim with patience and realistic expectations. You may want a resolution as quickly as possible, ensuring that your case receives the necessary attention and effort to secure a fair settlement is equally important.

By working with a knowledgeable and compassionate wrongful death lawyer, you can better face the legal system and receive the compensation you deserve for your significant loss.

Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim Today: Start by Contacting a Skilled Wrongful Death Attorney

If you have lost a loved one in a car accident and are considering filing a wrongful death claim, never wait to consult a skilled wrongful death lawyer who can guide you through the process and support you during this difficult time.

By seeking legal representation, you can protect your rights and increase your chances of securing a timely and fair wrongful death settlement. Remember, you don’t have to face this challenging journey alone – a lawyer can support you every step of the way.

The process begins with a free consultation. You can ask questions to determine whether a particular attorney is a good fit for your family. The attorney can also evaluate the circumstances of your loss to identify whether you have a valid case. There is nothing to lose by starting the process by scheduling a free meeting with a local law firm today.

About the Author

Darl Champion is an award-winning personal injury lawyer serving the greater Metro Atlanta area. He is passionate about ensuring his clients are fully compensated when they are harmed by someone’s negligence. Learn more about Darl here.