An auto accident is always a traumatic event and can be exponentially more painful if death is a result. When such sad cases occur, it is important to consult a personal injury lawyer who can guide you through the process of getting your claim met. Let the attorney handle the details of the case, so you can focus on grieving and the rest of the affairs you are now facing.
What is wrongful death?
Wrongful death is, according to alllaw.com, when “a victim who would otherwise have a personal injury claim is killed as a result of either negligence or an intentional harmful act on the part of the defendant.” A wrongful death can be in many different situations, including medical malpractice or murder, but in cases of a auto accident if the victim dies as a result of the injuries inflicted by a car accident, then a wrongful death claim may be brought.
There remains the same need for the victim’s family to meet the same requirements of burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet were they still living. The wrongful death claim can be filed by a representative of the estate of the deceased victim, often on behalf of survivors of the victim. Every state allows spouses to bring wrongful death claims on behalf of their spouse, and so can parents on behalf of minors, and minor on behalf of parents.
How is wrongful death proven?
In cases of wrongful death, the burden of proof is often detailed in a state statute which each state has some version of. Each statute shares some basic requirements including duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
Proving duty is needed to show that the defendant owed the deceased person a dude of “due care”. The exact definition of just what “due care” means varies on a case to case basis. Essentially, it is a duty to do something to keep another person safe or refrain from doing something that would harm another person. The judge will determine if the defendant owed a duty of due care, and will consider a number of factors in their decision.
Breach of duty is proven by showing that the defendant did indeed violate the duty of due care that they owe. The plaintiff needs to convince the jury that their version of the facts is more than fifty percent true, and this is best handled by a good auto accident attorney.
Causation is proven by showing the defendants actions and breach of duty lead directly to the deceased person’s harm. This is the area in which the case can get extremely complicated, as it is necessary to prove to the jury that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the harm.
Finally, in proving damages the plaintiff must prove that the deceased person actually suffered the damages and that each item sought in the settlement has a clear reason for why they are owed for damages.
What goes into a settlement calculation?
After a wrongful death claim is brought to a settlement, there are a number of categories for losses that the survivors can claim. These vary from case to case, and you should consult with your lawyer in order to determine what you can claim in your specific case.
These categories include a survival claim, which is compensations for the victim’s pre-death pain and suffering, any medical costs associated with trying to treat the victim’s injuries prior to death, the cost of burial and the funeral, loss of the deceased person’s income especially if they were the sole provider and had dependents, loss of inheritance as result of death, value of the services they would have provided, loss of the care, guidance and nurturing the victim would have provided, and the loss of the love and companionship as a result of the deceased person’s death.
Each of these categories must be determined and calculated by you and your legal team in order for you to get a settlement that meets your needs. While the settlement cannot restore the loss, it can ease the transition into a different stage of life. Be sure to maintain good mental health by seeing a trained and licensed therapist during this process as you will need not just legal help but mental health help to help you process grief.