Car accidents are always harrowing experiences, and these incidents sometimes have fatal consequences. If you lost a loved one to a fatal car accident, it’s important to know your options. Depending on the situation, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a negligent driver.
Wrongful death describes the unintentional killing of a person as a result of negligence. Similar to personal injury lawsuits, the success of wrongful death claims hinges on the plaintiff’s ability to prove the defendant’s negligence. Negligence in the legal sense describes a violation of one’s duty to act with reasonable care, and that violation results in injury to another person. In fatal car accident lawsuits, you must prove that the defendant failed to act with reasonable care, causing the death of your loved one.
Motorists have a duty to act with reasonable care, meaning they must abide by the rules of the road, traffic signals, and posted speed limits. A driver can violate this duty in a number of ways, including:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Reckless driving
- Driving at excessive speeds above the posted speed limits
- Distracted driving, which includes anything—such as texting and driving—that draws a driver’s attention away from the road ahead
Lawsuits filed in cases of wrongful death resulting from car accidents can sometimes lead to product liability claims against the manufacturers of defective vehicles or vehicle parts. Vehicle manufacturers must also uphold a certain duty to consumers by testing products to ensure safety and addressing any known issues in a timely and efficient manner. You may also need to file a claim against a public office or construction company for roadway hazards or improperly marked construction zones.
Winning a Wrongful Death Case
The success of your lawsuit depends on several factors. First, your attorney must be able to prove another driver or entity is at fault for the accident and subsequent death. Second, only certain people may bring a wrongful death claim against a defendant. In the state of Florida, the decedent’s surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, adoptive siblings, or other blood relative with a demonstrable dependence on the decedent can file a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims in the state of Florida is four years from the date of death.
The damages in a fatal car accident case may include:
- Property damage for the deceased’s vehicle and possessions within at the time of the accidents
- Medical bills for the deceased’s final injuries
- Lost wages from the time of the accident until time of death
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased from the time of the accident until the time of death
- Loss of consortium (affection) for surviving spouse or partner
- Loss of guidance and attention for surviving children
- Loss of financial security for any dependents
- Loss of reasonably assessed future earnings
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and every case is different. Many fatal car accident cases involve the deceased’s insurance company. Insurance companies attempt to avoid paying out claims whenever possible and may try to stall or deny a claim based on contributory or comparative negligence. If the court deems that the deceased was partially at fault for the fatal accident, this may reduce the amount of an insurance claim.
When it comes to proving negligence, handling difficult insurance claims and agents, and finding expert witnesses to testify in the case, an experienced attorney proves to be an invaluable asset. If you recently lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, it’s important to know your rights and speak with an attorney. Reach out to SteinLaw to set up a free initial case evaluation today. Our team is dedicated to exploring every opportunity for compensation to maximize our clients’ recovery during difficult times.