Wrongful death claimCan I File A Wrongful Death After A Car Accident?
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Key Takeaways:

  • A wrongful death is a death that occurs due to the negligence of another person or group.
  • Immediate family members can file a wrongful death claim after a fatal car accident.
  • The wrongful death claim must be filed within the statute of limitations


Losing someone you care about in a fatal car accident is a terrible thing.

Even though money can't bring back a loved one who has died, holding the negligent party responsible for the wrongful death and making them pay for it may give you the closure you need to move on.

A wrongful death lawyer can tell you if you can file a lawsuit after the death of a loved one in an accident.

Table Of Contents


Understanding Wrongful Death

A wrongful death is a death that happens because of the carelessness of another person or group.

Wrongful death cases are civil cases, which means they are handled separately from criminal charges.

For example, if someone is charged with vehicular manslaughter because they killed someone while driving drunk, the state's criminal case is handled separately from a civil claim for wrongful death.

In certain situations, people who did something wrong can be held criminally and civilly responsible for the same thing.

In many wrongful death cases, the person who caused the death is not charged with a crime. However, criminal charges are not needed to file a wrongful death claim.

Many things can lead to wrongful death claims, but fatal car accidents are a common cause of this type of civil litigation.

Who can sue after a fatal car accident

Which Family Members Can Sue for Wrongful Death After a Car Accident?

If your loved one was killed in a motor vehicle accident, it's essential to know if you can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver responsible.

You can bring a wrongful death lawsuit whether your family member died within 24 hours of the accident or days or months later because of complications related to injuries sustained during the crash.

But you must prove that the defendant's negligence caused the death.

You must meet certain requirements before filing a wrongful death case.

First, you must show that the defendant owed your family member a duty of care. Second, you must prove that the defendant breached that duty.

Third, you must demonstrate that the breach was the actual cause of your loved one's death.

Finally, you must prove that your family member suffered harm before their death.

If these requirements are met, a representative of the decedent (the person who died) who the death has hurt can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Most of the time, this is an immediate family member or spouse.

Some people who could file a lawsuit for wrongful death are:

  • spouse
  • child (including step-children and adopted)
  • life partner
  • financial dependent
  • parents of a child who died

Some states also let distant family members and people who are not blood relatives take legal action on behalf of a loved one who has died if they have been hurt financially.

If you are not a close relative of the person who died, a personal injury lawyer can look at your state's wrongful death laws to see if you can file a wrongful death claim.


How Plaintiffs Must Distribute the Settlement

In many states, wrongful death law requires that the settlement be divided according to the relationship of the deceased person to the plaintiff.

States decide how the settlement for wrongful death will be split up if the plaintiff(s) wins their case.

Depending on where you live, you may need to:

  1. Let the court decide who gets what and how much from the settlement.
  2. Give family members money based on how much they depended on the deceased person.
  3. Choose which family members should get money and how much each person should get.
  4. If family members can't agree, let the court make the choice.
  5. Only give the settlement money to the deceased's spouse or children.

After a car accident in your state, wrongful death attorneys can help you file a lawsuit or claim for wrongful death. They can also tell you how the court will handle the settlement.


How Long Does the Family Member Have to File for Wrongful Death After the Car Accident?

When a loved one dies suddenly and out of the blue, the first thing to do is to grieve.

When you're still upset about the death of a loved one, it's natural to find it hard to think about going to court.

However, obtaining legal representation as quickly as possible is often essential to a successful wrongful death claim.

You must meet certain deadlines, called statute of limitations, if you want to file a claim against someone responsible for the death of another person.

If you don't comply with those deadlines, you won't be able to recover damages from the defendant.

The wrongful death statute for claims involving fatal car accidents typically has a statute of limitations that begins to run when the victim dies.

Therefore, if you died in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, the family member suing for wrongful death needs to file suit within two years of the date of death.

Once the statute of limitations expires, no matter how much time passes, you cannot sue for negligence. 

When you fail to file a wrongful death case within two years of the death, the case will be dismissed unless you can prove that you had good reason for missing the deadline.

For example, if you missed the filing deadline because you were incapacitated, you might be able to argue that the delay was justified.

Wrongful death financial awards

Types Of Financial Awards in a Wrongful Death Settlement

Different types of damages and financial benefits come with a wrongful death settlement after a fatal car accident.

These benefits can range from compensation for medical bills, funeral costs, burial expenses, lost wages, pain & suffering, loss of consortium, loss of companionship, and other damages.

In many states, there is no limit to how much money you can recover for losing a loved one.

However, some states have laws restricting the amount of damages you can collect.

A wrongful death settlement will include one or several categories of monetary payments. 

The amount of each category depends on the facts of your case.

This includes how long ago the accident occurred, whether there was negligence involved, and the extent of injuries sustained.

Your attorney will work closely with you to determine what type of award is best suited for your specific circumstances.


Economic and Non-Economic Losses

In most cases, you are entitled to recover economic and non-economic damages. These are known as compensatory damages.

Plaintiffs can ask for economic damages, such as medical bills, funeral expenses, and lost wages that a court can put a dollar amount on.

These can help loved ones get back on their feet financially after the decedent's death.

They can also help them get awards that the decedent could have gotten for themselves if they had lived.

Some states also let claimants go after non-economic damages, which pay for the claimant's physical, emotional, and mental pain caused by the accident.

These may also include financial compensation for things like the loss of household services.

A lawyer can help you figure out what kinds of money you may be able to get because of the death.


Punitive Damages

Compensatory damages are meant to compensate for lost profits, medical expenses, pain and suffering, etc.

Punitive damages are extra payments made by a judge when the person who did the act that caused the fatal accident was incredibly careless or purposefully hurt someone.

They are sometimes called "exemplary damages," and the court can give them as a punishment and to warn the public.


You Don't Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get A Lawyer's Help

Fortunately, the majority of car accidents won't result in fatalities.

However, many will result in injuries that can require extensive medical care.

When you are involved in a car crash, knowing whether you are entitled to compensation to cover medical expenses and other damages is crucial.

You must take action immediately if you believe you are eligible for damages.

You do not want to wait too long because the statute of limitations may expire.

If you were hurt in a car accident, you need a law firm with a lot of experience to protect your physical and financial health and go toe-to-toe with the insurance company.

Our doctors who deal with car accidents have built great relationships with the best personal injury lawyers in your area.

These lawyers only help people who have been hurt in car accidents.

They will work closely with you throughout your personal injury claim to make sure you get the most money possible.

Our clients will get one-on-one attention from personal injury lawyers and can be sure that they will have the support of a whole legal team.

This care gives our patients peace of mind, knowing they are getting the medical care they need and that their injury claim will cover their medical bills and property damage.

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