Wrongful Death in a Car Accident
Driving is a dangerous activity. Whether we realize it or not, it is more dangerous to get behind the wheel or ride on a motorcycle than fly on airplane, hop on a train across the state, or take a boat ride down the river. Because of the nature of driving, it is important to always be safe, never drink alcohol or take drugs and drive, and for heaven’s sake, don’t text and drive. In 2014 alone, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Despite the overwhelming amount of information about careless or unsafe driving, accident can still happen. When someone’s action lead to another’s death, whether it is accidental, intentional, or a car manufacturer defect, the deceased’s loved ones may be entitled to compensation for the wrongful death. Wrongful death in a car accident can happen for a variety of reasons such as negligence or recklessness by another motorist, criminal activity, or even because of a manufacturing defect by the automaker. Below you will find key information about wrongful death car accidents, including the common causes of car accidents, your options when filing a claim, and where to go to find a lawyer who can assist you.
What are the Main Causes of Car Accidents?
Car accidents are a common occurrence. Think about all the times you have been sitting in rush hour traffic listening to a traffic report on the radio where the announcer lists out the number of accidents in a given time period. Common causes of car accidents that can lead to a fatality include:
- Texting and driving (distracted driving)
- Driving under the influence of drugs (including prescription drugs) and/or alcohol (DUI)
- Reckless driving (speeding, racing, passing when it is unsafe, etc.)
- Poor weather conditions
- Driver fatigue
- Street and highway defects
- Car manufacturing defects
- Inexperienced and/or elderly drivers
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
Every state has some form of a wrongful death statute on the books. While all of these laws have similarities, it is important to know the specific laws in your state to verify filing deadlines and other requirements. Typically, a state wrongful death statute will require you to show several common elements. Michigan’s wrongful death statute is typical of what a grieving family must prove in order to win a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Another driver caused an accident that resulted in the death of your family member or loved one;
- The other driver acted negligently, wrongfully, or was otherwise at fault in causing the accident;
- The deceased family member is survived by a spouse, child, or other dependents or beneficiaries; and
- There are monetary damages as a result of your loved one’s death. (Damages can include both monetary and non-monetary damages in some states).
Who Can File
In order to have standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you typically must be an immediate family member such as a spouse, child, or parent of the deceased. However, logistically it will be the personal representative of the estate that will file the suit on behalf of the deceased’s estate and family members. For more information about how this process works, be sure to consult an attorney in your state.
Wrongful Death in a Car Accident: Related Resources
- State Civil Statute of Limitations
- Wrongful Death FAQ
- Wrongful Death Claims: Time Limits and the "Discovery" Rule
Get an Attorney's Help With Your Wrongful Death Claim
Losing a loved one because of negligent or distracted driving is devastating. While the law can't bring that person back, it can help ease some of the financial burden that goes along with an untimely death. If you or someone you love is considering filing a wrongful death claim because of a car accident, you'll greatly benefit from the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.