What You Need to Know about Wrongful Death in a Car Accident
Of all fatalities that result from vehicle accidents, commercial vehicles are involved in under 9% of these fatalities. This means that the vast majority of auto accident deaths occur with drivers operating ordinary cars and trucks.
Although there is a great deal of advice on avoiding unsafe driving, accidents frequently occur. When a driver’s operation of a motor vehicle results in someone’s death, regardless of whether the driver’s actions were intentional, accidental, or the result of a vehicle defect, the family of the person killed may seek financial compensation.
A wrongful death may occur under a number of different circumstances, including driver recklessness or negligence, criminal acts, or an automotive manufacturing defect. Here are some basic facts about wrongful deaths that result from car accidents, and why it’s important to consider hiring a local auto accident injury attorney.
The Major Causes of Motor Vehicle Accidents
Car accidents occur with alarming frequency and it’s riskier to drive a car than to ride on an airplane, train, or boat. Drivers should always avoid drugs and alcohol before getting behind the wheel, and never text while driving, but tragically, many drivers ignore such advice.
Here are some typical situations that may result in motor vehicle fatalities:
- Texting while driving
- Driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
- Reckless operation of the vehicle, including speeding and passing other cars under unsafe conditions
- Dangerous road conditions due to bad weather
- Driving while sleepy or fatigued
- Defects on roadways
- Vehicle manufacturing defects
- Drivers who lack experience and confidence behind the wheel
- Older drivers with impaired vision and functioning
Wrongful Death Claims
A personal injury attorney can help you file a wrongful death claim after a traffic fatality. Each state has a statute concerning wrongful death, and a local auto accident injury attorney will be familiar with the specific laws in your state, as well as deadlines for filing claims and similar requirements. Your state’s wrongful death statute will probably demand that you provide certain kinds of proof:
- The other driver’s actions resulted in the accident that caused your loved one’s death.
- The other driver’s actions were negligent or in some other way responsible for the accident.
- The deceased has surviving family members or other beneficiaries.
- The death has resulted in monetary damages.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In most cases, you must be a spouse, child, parent, or an immediate family member of the deceased to file for wrongful death. But in practical terms, the executor of the estate usually files the wrongful death suit on behalf of the estate and its beneficiaries. A local auto accident injury lawyer can help the executor of the deceased’s estate file a wrongful death claim. The process can be complicated, so it’s best to seek professional help.
Statute of Limitations
Wrongful death suits, like all civil actions, can only be filed within certain time periods, or statutes of limitations. A period of limitations in a wrongful death suit starts when the party filing the suit discovers or reasonably should have discovered the cause of death. After the statute of limitations has expired, you cannot pursue your claim. Each state has a unique statute of limitations with regard to wrongful death suits; some are limited to just one year, many to several years, and some with a longer period. A local auto accident injury attorney will help you figure out the law in your area and tell you if you still have a valid case.
The Difference between Criminal and Civil Cases
In a criminal case, the government asks the court to impose a suitable punishment on a person who is believed to have committed a crime. By contrast, a civil case focuses on the duties and rights between persons and organizations. It takes much more evidence to get a conviction in a criminal case than to get a judgment in a civil case. The usual outcome of a successful civil case is that the defendant is ordered to make financial restitution.
Clearly, there is a lot to know when it comes to filing a wrongful death claim after a fatal car accident. A local auto accident injury attorney will be knowledgeable about laws in your state that are specific to this kind of claim. Contact our highly experienced team today for a free consultation.