Losing a loved one in a car accident is heartbreaking, but it might be even more overwhelming if someone else’s negligence, irresponsibility, or intentional behavior caused their death. In these situations, you might be entitled to financial compensation. Wrongful death is a type of claim usually handled by a civil or personal injury attorney. If your loved one died in a car accident, and you believe the other driver was at fault (at least significantly) for your loved one’s death, you may have strong grounds upon which to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In a wrongful death case, your attorney must prove that not only did the other party cause (or significantly contribute to the cause of) the accident, but also that their actions were negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous. For example, an at-fault driver was discovered to have a high blood-alcohol level after being taken to the hospital. He could be found liable in a wrongful death case because driving while intoxicated is a reckless choice. As an experienced wrongful death lawyer can confirm, there are many circumstances under which other drivers, auto parts manufacturers, and even state agencies may be held liable for the death of a car accident victim. Ultimately, the court must find a link between the defendant’s actions or inactions and the event that caused your loved one’s death in order for your claim to be successful.
Filing the Claim
There is much variation among all 50 states about who is permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Typically, you can qualify as a wrongful death plaintiff if your relationship with the victim can be described as:
- Immediate family – Parent, spouse, children, or grandchildren.
- A life partner – A romantic partner who lived with the victim for a long time.
- Extended family – If a victim does not have any immediate family, some state courts will allow siblings and grandparents to file on behalf of the decedent.
- Financially dependent – Some states allow wrongful death claims from anyone who was dependent on the victim for financial help.
There are some states that don’t have a blood-relation or legal relationship rule to file a wrongful death lawsuit. As long as you are an heir of the decedent’s estate, you may be entitled to compensation. Additionally, each jurisdiction generally allows a representative of the victim’s estate to file a wrongful death claim – that representative does not need to be related to the victim.
Schedule a Consultation With an Attorney
It is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney if you want to pursue a wrongful death claim. Since the laws are very different throughout the United States, it is a good idea to get in-depth knowledge of wrongful death legal procedures in your state. An attorney in your area can explain how the laws of your state will apply to your claim and how to pursue your claim most effectively.