A fatal accident turns your life upside down. You’ve not only lost someone, but now you have to deal with insurance, determinations of who’s at fault, and what the appropriate compensation should be. A fatal car accident can have any number of causes, but knowing who’s at fault is essential to getting the appropriate compensation.
Was There Negligence?
The first step in defining fault is determining if there was any negligence involved in the accident. There are a variety of ways that a driver can be negligent. If any of these exist as a factor in the accident, it’s likely that fault will be placed on the negligent driver.
- Distracted Driving. This includes everything from children distracting the driver, to attempting to eat or do other activities during driving, to using a cell phone or texting while driving. Distracted driving is a leading cause of fatal accidents.
- Drunk Driving. Driving while intoxicated can cause a fatal accident. The intoxicated driver is likely to assigned fault and face serious consequences.
- Reckless Driving. From excessive speed to weaving through traffic to failing to keep appropriate distance between vehicles, reckless driving is a major factor in many fatal accidents. Reckless driving may be a result of distraction or intoxication, or it may simply be a factor on its own.
When authorities determine that negligence caused a fatal car accident, the affected party can file a wrongful death claim. In a wrongful death lawsuit, surviving family members can seek compensation for damages on behalf of their deceased relative.
Proving Your Case
Although you’ve determined who’s at fault, it’s still up to you to prove your case. This is where an experienced injury attorney can be a tremendous benefit. Proving your case involves three basic steps.
The first thing you have to do is prove someone or some entity was at fault for your fatal accident. Unfortunately, sometimes fatal accidents happen where neither party could have done anything to avoid it. If you have a police report assigning fault, or can prove a case of negligence, you’ll be able to show that the other driver was at fault.
Secondly, you’ll have to prove your relationship to the deceased person. Only someone who is related to or a legal beneficiary of the victim can collect damages on their behalf. If you’re a spouse, you’ll need a marriage license. If you’re a child, your birth certificate will prove your relationship. If you’re a beneficiary, you’ll need a will or insurance policy showing that relationship.
Finally, you’ll need to prove that the death of your loved one will cause a financial loss. You can use your deceased loved one’s earnings to show lost earnings over the rest of his or her life, or you can work to prove potential future income that was lost. For instance, a student in medical school who is killed in a fatal car accident can be assumed to have future earnings based on being a doctor in the specialty he or she chose.
Statutes of Limitations
It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t have an infinite amount of time to bring your case. Each state has a different amount of time that you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. One of the reasons you want to hire an experienced personal injury attorney is that your lawyer can handle aspects of the lawsuit while you are handling your personal grief, loss, and estate issues. Your personal injury attorney will help ensure that you do not miss your filing deadlines.
There are many other elements that affect a wrongful death lawsuit, including whether your loved one was at all at fault for the accident. This is called “contributory negligence,” which can be used by defense lawyers to reduce the amount of damages you receive. You’ll want to ensure that you have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side right away, so that the scene of the accident can be promptly investigated. The attorney will also interview witnesses, access police reports, and examine the vehicles involved in the accident.
If your family has suffered due to a fatal accident, you have no time to lose. Contact me today by calling 602-212-0202 or schedule a free consultation online.