Finding Legal Recourse after Losing a Loved One in an Auto Accident
Losing a family member in an untimely auto accident is one of the most difficult situations any family can experience. The death of a loved one not only impacts the fatally injured victim, but the damage can extend to many others as well, especially involving emotional damage. This is particularly true for spouses, dependent minor children, and parents. Families are commonly left not knowing exactly where to turn when this type of tragedy occurs, but calling an experienced auto accident and wrongful death attorney is assuredly a solid first step.
Standing to File a Claim
All accidents are investigated by local law enforcement authorities who will produce an official accident report that will be used to help determine what actually transpired, including potential fault for accident causation. This determination can be critical to any financial recovery for both the victim’s estate and the family, as wrongful death is a special class of personal injury claim that is governed by specific rules regarding who is assigned standing to represent the family. While this is typically assigned to a spouse, that is not always the case. Dependent children from prior marriages can also be assigned standing even when the parents are not married at the time. Parents who are legal guardian of dependent children are often assigned as adult representatives for the children. This can be a complicated legal ruling, which means the family will always need experienced legal representation from an attorney who understands the legal nuances of a wrongful death claim.
How Fault Impacts a Wrongful Death Claim
Fault for an accident is always central to an accident injury claim, and it will typically extend to a wrongful death case. The mere fact that someone perished in a crash does not mean that wrongful death will automatically apply. There must be some component of gross negligence among the material case factors. Impaired driving is the most common application of gross negligence, but this result can also occur when someone intentionally injures the victim or is driving at an unreasonable excessive speed at the time of the mishap. Comparative fault can also be assigned to a fatally injured driver, which can reduce the potential for a wrongful death claim in addition to a personal injury claim when the decedent did not pass away immediately at the crash scene. Even in a no-fault auto insurance state, fault can still matter when pursuing additional damages and wrongful death awards.
Understanding Comparative Negligence
All accident investigations will include certain case factors that insurance companies and primary defendants always use to lessen the potential value of an injury claim. This information can be primarily what is used to determine the level of negligence for each driver involved in the crash, but a jury must make the ultimate decision. Negotiations for a settlement are always centered around this potential assignment that an insurance company or commercial defendant such as a trucking company will use to stall a claim instead of making an equitable settlement offer. In the event a case goes to trial, the jury will make the final assignment of comparative negligence percentage, which can result in a denied claim in certain states using modified comparative negligence law at the 50% bar level. States using pure comparative negligence law will usually result in some amount of compensation for all injured parties.
Financial compensation recovery following the death of a loved is always a complicated and strongly defended legal issue. Always get an experienced wrongful death attorney who understands the challenges ahead for all involved.