When Is a Fatal Car Accident Considered Wrongful Death?
Losing a loved one in a fatal car accident is always shocking and devastating. Surviving family is left to pick up the pieces – both emotionally and financially – and may be left wondering how they are going to get by without their suddenly deceased family member.
According to IIHS, there were 33,654 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2018, resulting in 36,560 deaths. The accidents and deaths resulted in a death rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 people and 1.13 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. But how do we know when a fatal accident rises to the level of wrongful death?
When is a fatal car accident considered wrongful death?
A wrongful death is the abrupt and unforeseen death of a person caused by the negligence of another. Drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians on the road. When they breach their duty of care, they have acted negligently. In these circumstances, a wrongful death action may be an appropriate way to recoup damages such as funeral expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and loss of services and consortium.
Two of the most common types of wrongful death claims are motor vehicle accidents and pedestrian accidents. A wrongful death lawyer will be able to tell you if you have a wrongful death claim based on the circumstances of your loved one’s accident. The accident attorney will need to prove that the at-fault driver showed negligent or reckless behavior.
When a fatal car crash is caused by a negligent driver, the accident may be considered wrongful death, though not every fatal accident is considered wrongful death. Some examples of negligent behavior that can lead to a collision are:
- Drunk driving
- Drugged driving
- Distracted driving
- Reckless driving
- Excessive speeding such as street racing
- Failure to stop for a pedestrian
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Driving without a valid driver’s license
How much can I expect from a wrongful death car accident settlement?
Family members often want to know how much money they can expect from a wrongful death settlement before they move forward with a claim. Unfortunately, there really is no average settlement amount because each case is unique but a wrongful death attorney can give you a reasonable settlement range after they understand your claim. It is difficult to put a price on the value of someone’s life but there are factors that help determine the settlement amount. These factors include:
- The percentage of fault attributed to the deceased.
- The income of the deceased at the time of their death.
- The earning capacity of the deceased (a person who was about to graduate from law school would have a high lifetime earning capacity, for example.)
- The age of the deceased (a younger person’s life would be valued higher).
- The health condition of the deceased (a healthy person’s life would be valued higher because they would be expected to live longer).
- Whether the deceased had dependents and their ages (a person who had young dependents could have a higher settlement value than someone who did not or whose children were grown.)
- The medical bills incurred by the deceased related to the wrongful death claim.
- The value of the deceased’s benefits that they will no longer get to use, such as a pension.
Seek the help of a wrongful death attorney
If you lost a loved one due to a preventable medical error or the reckless/negligent behavior of another, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced wrongful death attorney fight for justice on your behalf. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a wrongful death lawyer. Call the most experienced practicing wrongful death attorneys Bellingham has at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing grieving family members in Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!