Every year, more than 1.25 million people die in accidents on roads around the world: an average of more than 3,200 people per day. A significant portion of those fatalities occur right here in the United States.
You may wonder what you need to do to protect your rights when you lose someone you love in a car accident.
How do you cover those final expenses, especially if your loved one did not carry life insurance?
Do you have the right to a wrongful death claim?
Step One: Contact an Attorney
When you lose a loved one in a car accident, contact an attorney as soon as possible. The attorney will be able to answer many of your questions related to your loved one’s accident and what to do next.
In many cases, after an auto accident causes the death of a loved one, the surviving family has grounds for a “wrongful death” claim. An attorney will help you establish whether you have grounds for a wrongful death claim after losing your loved one. Important factors determining your rights to take legal action could include:
Someone else caused your loved one’s accident. In some cases, the other driver clearly caused your loved one’s accident and therefore your loved one’s death. In others, the attorney may focus the analysis on other factors that may have contributed to the accident, including:
- Faulty vehicle and/or parts, which can point to a manufacturer as a potentially-liable party;
- An employer with unrealistic or illegal requirements for a driver: for example, a trucking company that forces a driver to drive for more than the legally mandated number of hours;
- A mechanic who certified a vehicle was road-worthy after failing to properly complete repairs.
In general, if your loved one had grounds for a personal injury claim had they lived, a surviving family can typically file a wrongful death claim on the same basis.
Your relationship to the deceased. Following the death of an individual in a car accident, the people closest to that person typically have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Generally speaking, those people include (in order of priority) the deceased’s spouse, any surviving children, and surviving parents and others who were dependents of the deceased person. Speaking with an experienced car accident and wrongful death attorney is the best way to determine whether you or someone else has a legal right to take legal action for the death of a loved one in a car crash.
Step Two: File a Wrongful Death Claim
By working with an attorney, you can identify the funds you have the right to request as a result of your loved one’s death. This may include:
- Medical expenses incurred by your loved one before death. You have the right to file a wrongful death claim even if your loved one did not die immediately of their injuries. If your loved one accumulated medical expenses before death, then you can typically include those medical expenses as part of the damages you seek to recover.
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before death. In addition to medical expenses, in many states (including Nevada) you can seek damages for your loved one’s pain and suffering before death.
- Loss of your loved one’s income. Lost income from the primary breadwinner in a family can cause significant financial harm. A wrongful death action can seek compensation for the past and future value of that lost income.
- Loss of services performed by your loved one. This can include childcare, elder care, cooking and cleaning, home repair and maintenance, and vehicle repair and maintenance.
- Loss of companionship/consortium. Losing your loved one can cause substantial pain in your life. An attorney can help you define how that pain impacts your claim and the funds you deserve as compensation for that loss.
Be aware that to some extent, the amount of money or insurance available to pay your damages can factor into what you are, in practical terms, entitled to receive. For example, Nevada’s minimum auto insurance for personal drivers requires only $25,000 in coverage for each party injured or killed in an auto accident, and just $50,000 in bodily injury or death protection, total, per accident.
Working with an experienced car accident attorney can help to identify as many parties with legal liability for your loved one’s death as possible, and by extension, as many sources of payment as are available.
Step Three: Negotiate
In a typical scenario, a lawyer for the family of someone killed in a car accident sends a “demand” to the parties (or insurers for the parties) with legal liability for the death, requesting that they pay damages. The lawyer may also simultaneously file a lawsuit making the same demand for payment.
This often (but not always) triggers a series of negotiations between the lawyer and the liable parties in which the lawyer seeks to obtain a fair and reasonable settlement offer from the other side. In this process, the parties may agree to have the help of a mediator who attempts to bring the two sides to an agreement.
Most (but by no means all) car accident wrongful death cases eventually settle through negotiation.
Step Four (If Necessary): Litigate
Sometimes, however, it takes doing battle in court to achieve a fair and just outcome for the family of a deceased car accident victim. When necessary, a lawyer will take the case to trial, with to try to convince a judge and jury to award damages to the family in an amount greater than what the other side offered via settlement.
If you lost a loved one in an auto accident, working with an experienced car attorney is the best way to pursue a wrongful death claim.
To protect your rights to receive the compensation you and your family deserve after a fatal car accident, contact an attorney as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.
Benson & Bingham
626 S 10th St
Las Vegas, NV 89101