Fatal Car Accidents & Your Legal Rights

Every year, over 40,000 Americans will receive the phone call we all dread—news that a loved one has been killed in an automobile accident.* The shock of this news can be emotionally and physically debilitating—the death is sudden, violent, and unexpected—and can take years to recover from. If you have lost a family member to a fatal car accident, it is important to know what legal rights you have in seeking financial reimbursement for your loss via insurance claims for car accident.

Of course, there is no way to put a dollar amount on a person’s life. If you’ve just lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, you will be experiencing anger, grief, disbelief, shock and many other emotions as you process the news and begin dealing with your loss. You may decide that you want an auto accident injury lawsuit.

The reality, however, is that there are tangible financial losses in almost any fatality. The deceased party may have left behind a spouse, dependent children or even aging parents that depended on his or her income. Most likely, he or she will also have left behind assets that need to be equitably distributed to surviving family members. An attorney specializing in wrongful death lawsuits can help guide you through your legal options as you try to navigate through this painful personal experience.

Car Accident Fatality Legal Recourse

A death that results due to the reckless behavior of another person is considered a wrongful death. In car accidents, reckless driving might include driving while drunk or under the influence of other drugs, excessive speeding, or driving while texting on a cell phone among others.

If you’ve lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, financial reimbursement may be sought for any or all of the following:

  • Compensation for Wrongful Death
  • Medical costs
  • Funeral costs
  • Pain and suffering, and mental anguish
  • Loss of future wages
  • Loss of support and/or companionship

How an Attorney Can Help

You need time to work through your personal grief and determine the extent of your financial and emotional loss. At the same time, you may be experiencing immediate financial consequences (such as loss of a household income) and need to take swift legal action to recover your losses. A qualified wrongful death lawyer will understand that you are going through a grieving process, will be able to compassionately guide you through your legal options, and due so on a reasonable legal timetable.

Each state has different laws that govern wrongful death lawsuits. But in most states, the liable party is responsible for paying compensation to the victim’s family. Financial reimbursement will first be sought from the liable party’s insurance carrier. If the responsible party was uninsured, or did not have adequate insurance to cover your losses, you may be able to seek reimbursement from his or her other financial assets. You may also be able to seek financial reimbursement from additional liable parties who contributed to the reckless behavior that caused the death. A wrongful death attorney will be able to advise you in all these matters.

* According to the Fatality Awareness Reporting System, there were 41,059 fatalities due to automobile crashes in 2007. (http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx).