Few things in the world feel as devastating as the unexpected loss of a loved one. The younger the person, the more challenging it is to move on. Money can never truly compensate you for the loss. What it can do is cover related costs and protect the future of dependents who might have now lost their primary breadwinner. An experienced fatal crash attorney can help determine whether you have a claim and who can file one.
What Does a Fatal Car Crash Lawyer Do?
Lawyers have individual processes for tackling a case and structuring their services. Even so, there are some general tasks carried out by fatal crash lawyers.
Investigate the Case
Fatal crash lawyers analyze an accident's circumstances and determine liability points. They use these points to build a solid case to pursue compensation. Investigating the issue might also require the expertise of other professionals, such as medical doctors or people skilled at reconstructing crash scenes.
Negotiate on Your Behalf
Knowing the local laws and legal implications of a case is vital. An experienced fatal crash attorney knows how to maximize your compensation by exploring every avenue when negotiating with insurance companies and other liable parties.
Represent You in Court
Most wrongful death and personal injury cases involve private settlement, but sometimes disputes make this impossible. For example, the insurance company might refuse to pay the amount requested. Your attorney must fight hard in court for you to get the compensation you deserve in these instances.
What Are the Four Necessary Components To Establish Wrongful Death?
Every death is a loss and families deserve closure. Nevertheless, not all deaths involve the negligence of another party. When there is no negligence, then there is no guilty party who must pay for the loss. This is why establishing these four elements is so important.
The negligence of another party must have caused the death. This means the deceased person would have lived or faced no injuries if a particular party had not taken specific actions. Examples include drunk driving, speeding, or fleeing the scene after an accident.
Breach of Duty
The person responsible for the death had a duty of care toward the deceased. For example, drivers are responsible for obeying traffic laws and driving safely. When they breach this duty, it can lead to fatal car crashes and subsequent liability claims.
Damages or Injury
You must be able to prove that damages or injury occurred as a result of the accident. This usually involves medical reports, police reports and other evidence that proves physical or emotional pain. Your attorney might call on expert witnesses and people who saw the accident happen.
Your attorney must connect the negligence and the cause of death. That ties a specific party to the case. For example, consider the case of a drunk driver speeding on the road. He or she crashes into a car waiting at a stoplight and the occupants of that vehicle pass away. There is a clear connection between the drunk driver's negligence and the resulting fatal injuries.
Who Can File for Wrongful Death Compensation?
The State of California determines who can file a wrongful death claim. Eligible persons typically include immediate family members. Here are some examples:
- Domestic partners
- Natural and adopted children
- Legal guardians or parents of minors
California is not a common-law marriage state, so long-time girlfriends or boyfriends may not have the same rights as spouses or domestic partners. This may hold even in cases where they lived together for several years.
When attorneys cannot identify immediate family members, they widen the search to other survivors. Examples include siblings or other family members with which the deceased person shared a close relationship.
What Damages Can a Fatal Crash Lawyer Claim?
Fatal crashes can cause families five figures or more in immediate costs. The long-term value amounts to much more, especially in cases where a main caretaker or primary breadwinner passes away. Here are some damages your attorney may seek on your behalf.
Funeral and Burial Expenses
The medical cost for a viewing and burial in 2021 was $7,848; inflation has likely caused this to increase. Whether the person has life insurance or the family receives crowdsourcing assistance, the negligent party should pay for these expenses. Attorneys may add these and other related costs to the total compensation requested.
Health Care Costs
Some crashes are not immediately fatal. People can survive for several hours or weeks and receive medical care but ultimately do not recover from their injuries. Sadly, the longer the hospital stay, the higher the cost. Family members may become saddled with medical bills and other related expenses when this happens.
Loss of Earnings
CNBC estimates that 64% of Americans would face financial devastation if they missed a paycheck. That makes the loss of a breadwinner especially catastrophic to dependents, particularly those who do not have the means to earn an income independently. Your attorney may factor this into the compensation amount by calculating how much money the deceased would have made in their lifetime had they not passed away.
The main goal of any wrongful death lawsuit is to get justice for the deceased and their family members who must cope with the loss. A fatal crash lawyer may request compensation for emotional pain, suffering and other non-economic losses. This includes loss of companionship which may consist of grief counseling or therapy sessions.
Is It Difficult To Win a Fatal Crash Case?
Courts are generally empathetic to people who have lost their loved ones. However, they do not always award large sums. Insurance companies know this and might hedge their bets by sending a lowball offer and hoping desperation will cause the family to take it. This works often enough, especially when insurance companies pair this strategy with stalling.
Insurance companies typically do not want to go to court, but they know that most survivors do not want to either. They want a quick and effective solution to the problems caused by losing a loved one. Even so, some insurance companies refuse to negotiate and your attorney might need to go to court to secure compensation. Note that you can typically still settle privately, even after proceedings have begun in court.
Experienced attorneys do not guarantee a positive outcome, but they help survivors build more robust cases. These professionals know the law inside and out and can estimate the case's compensation value. The presence of an attorney might also discourage insurance companies from attempting to take advantage of the situation.
Because the amount of compensation matters so much, it's important to note that California is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that the court may subtract a portion of the compensation for any negligence on behalf of the deceased. For example, 20% of negligence awarded to the deceased leads to a 20% decrease in the total amount awarded.
Do You Need an Experienced Fatal Crash Attorney?
Personal injury law is complex and no two fatal crash cases are identical. Dealing with the legal aspects of such a tragedy is much easier when you have professionals to help you navigate laws. An experienced attorney who regularly works on these cases can help eligible survivors identify their options and take action where possible. Are you ready to get started? Schedule your free consultation with JAG today.