Injured - The FindLaw Accident, Injury and Tort Law Blog

Car Accident Death: What Are Your Rights?

This is another in our series on car accident claims. Many of us experience an accident, but do we really know what do to, how to get help, or what our rights are? This series can help.

Any car accident is terrifying -- we realize how powerful and dangerous cars can be, and how fragile our health and safety can be when driving. In some tragic instances, serious car accidents can result in fatalities and we are truly shaken.

Often, the last thing from our mind when a loved one is killed in a car accident is the legal system. But if the deadly accident was someone else's fault, you may be able to recover for medical bills, funeral costs, or pain and suffering. Here are your legal rights following a car accident death.

Wrongful Death Claims

When someone is killed in a car accident, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits are similar to personal injury suits, and claim that a person's death was the result of someone else's negligent, reckless, or intentional actions.

The plaintiff in a wrongful death case is generally entitled to two kinds of damages: pecuniary damages, to cover financial costs like lost wages, medical bills, etc.; and punitive damages to punish a party's bad behavior. Some states, however, prohibit punitive damages in wrongful death claims, some place caps on the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover, and some may allow the plaintiff to recover pain and suffering damages. States also have time limits on when a plaintiff can file a wrongful death claim.

Car Accident Claims

In the context of fatal car accidents, surviving family members could have claims against other drivers, auto manufacturers, or other entities. Every car accident is different, but they will generally entail proving that the person who died was not at fault for the accident. This means gathering important information from the accident, including photos from the scene, testimony from eyewitnesses, and police reports, among other evidence.

In some cases, a driver's insurance may cover a victim's damages, or offer a settlement. If not, you may need to file a lawsuit to hold the party responsible and get fair compensation. Car accident lawsuits, and especially wrongful death claims, can be complex and complicated affairs, both legally and emotionally. If a family member has died in a car accident, contact an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney today -- many are happy to review your claims for free.

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