If the sun is still up, there are 660,000 drivers across America are using their cell phones or other electronic device while driving at this very moment. Engaging in such activities while driving increases the risk of getting into a car crash by three times and yet many of us still do it. Each year, nearly 1.3 million people lose their lives in automobile and motorcycle accidents. That’s roughly 3,287 deaths each day. Another 20 to 50 million incur injuries or become disabled due to car crashes.
If you or someone you know is killed or injured in a car accident for which you or they were not at fault, you may be entitled to damages. A wrongful death lawyer or car accident lawyer can help you receive the compensation you deserve, be it lost wages, lost companionship from a deceased spouse, or funeral expenses.
Before you seek out a wrongful death lawyer, however, it’s important to understand what a wrongful death claim actually is.
Understanding a wrongful death claim
When a person dies because of someone else’s actions, it doesn’t necessarily mean his or her family has grounds for a wrongful death claim. For your loved one’s death to qualify as a wrongful death, the death must be due to the legal fault of another party. Defining legal fault can be tricky, which is why if you suspect you have grounds for a wrongful death claim, you should consult with a qualified wrongful death lawyer to determine if you do.
Wrongful death claims can be brought for any type of fatal accidents, from car crashes to medical malpractice or even product liability. Similarly, anyone – – another individual, a company, or governmental agencies – – can be at fault in a wrongful death claim. This fault can stem from negligence to intentionally harmful actions.
Filing a wrongful death claim
A representative acting on behalf of the deceased’s survivors must file the wrongful death claim. This representative is often the executor of the deceased’s estate and he or she may be filing on behalf of immediate or distant family members, life partners, financial dependents, or anyone else who suffers financially due to the death. Each state has different rules for which individuals they allow to file for wrongful death claims. As such, when choosing a wrongful death lawyer ensure it’s someone licensed in the state in which you plan to file your claim.
Who is at fault in a wrongful death claim
As stated above, almost anyone can file a wrongful death claim against almost anyone else. Some examples of wrongful death claims include car accidents involving drunk or distracted drivers or those involving a faulty roadway. In such circumstances, the person at fault may be:
- The driver
- The employer of the driver
- The road designer
- The government agency who didn’t properly maintain the road or apply adequate warning signs
- The vehicle manufacturer if there was a faulty part in the vehicle which caused the crash
- The vendor who sold alcohol to the driver
There are certain persons and agencies which may be immune from wrongful death claims. Who these people and agencies are varies by state. For instance, certain federal laws grant immunity to defendants in railroad collisions while some states may have laws protecting family members. A wrongful death lawyer in your state could help you determine not only who is at fault, but if they have immunity before you bring your claim to court.
No one wants to face a wrongful death claim, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant. To help prevent them, we hope you always drive safely. Don’t use electronic devices while driving and don’t drink and drive. It’s also worth noting that what you drive makes a difference. Not surprisingly, motorcyclists were 26 times more likely to die in a crash than those driving passenger vehicles per mile traveled in 2013. Similarly, over 80% of fatal accidents involved a large truck or were multi-vehicle crashes whereas 58% involved passenger vehicles only.
If, despite your best efforts to stay safe on the road, you or a loved one are injured or killed in a car accident, there is a local wrongful death lawyer or car accident attorney who can help.