Losing someone you love abruptly to a road accident is as horrible as life can get. Yet this is the reality of a good number of families across the US.
Statistics from the Federal Highway Administration show that there were approximately 33,000 fatal road crashes in 2019 alone. These accidents resulted in over 36,000 deaths. A significant portion of them qualified as wrongful deaths. For example, in the same year, the NHTSA reported that 10,142 road accident deaths resulted from drunk driving. That’s almost a third of all road accident fatalities!
Therefore, even though losing a loved one is a gruesome experience, it’s critical that the family left behind fights for the rights of the deceased. This is not only good to you as a family but to the millions of people out there who’ve also lost their loved ones to preventable road accidents. Because every time someone is convicted of wrongful death, that’s one less reckless person on our roads. This gives you the justice you deserve while protecting the community at large.
That said, the process of seeking justice can be very overwhelming. The fact that you’re also trying to heal from the emotional wound of your loved one’s demise doesn’t make things any better.
With this guide, we hope to make the process a little less stressful for you. We’ll give you a clear direction on what you can expect when seeking justice during this difficult time.
Understanding The Cause Of The Accident
The first step in building your wrongful death lawsuit is to investigate the accident. You need to get to the root cause of the crash and collect all the necessary evidence. This should help you build a strong case that will allow you to get the justice you deserve.
Police officers are usually the first investigators at the scene. The law requires that they document key details about the accident on what is known as Form CR-3. This form will contain lots of information that should form part of your evidence.
Some of the data that will be captured on this document are:
- The date and location of the accident
- Identifying details about the people and vehicles involved in the crash, e.g., the license plate of the car and the names of the drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and anyone else involved in the crash.
- Medical services are given to the people involved in the accident. It also records whether the victim died on the scene.
- Drug test results of the drivers
- Damages around the scene as observed by the law enforcement officer
In some cases, the Department of Transportation may also send investigators to the scene. This usually happens if the accident requires detailed forensic investigations. The specialists can also help with reconstructing the accident.
Don’t worry if the department doesn’t do any reconstruction. Families of wrongful death victims are allowed to hire accident reconstructionist to recreate the scene. This is a great option when the cause of the accident is not clear-cut. It will help you get the forensic evidence you need to make your case.
Generally speaking, a wrongful death accident can be due to:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving
- Aggressive driving
- Driving without a valid driver’s license
- Road constructions
Hiring Legal Help
As you can imagine, dealing with a wrongful death lawsuit requires a lot of commitment and effort. Even collecting evidence can be very overwhelming for a family that’s already grieving. That’s why you need to bring a wrongful death attorney on board. And not just any attorney but a qualified and experienced one. The lawyer will help you in so many ways. First, they’ll gather all the evidence you need for your case. These professionals handle similar cases on a daily basis. They know what evidence to look for and how to get it.
Wrongful death lawyers also have the necessary connections to get you the specialists you need for your case. For instance, they can find the right accident reconstructionist that can recreate the scene in court.
Third, the lawyers understand the legal proceeding. They know what to file and when to file it. They understand all the deadlines affecting your case. With this knowledge, rest assured that they’ll smoothen the entire process for you. Even more importantly, they’ll utilize their expertise to increase your chances of winning the case.
Finally, the lawyer will reduce your workload and save you a lot of time. After losing a loved one to an accident, the last thing you want is to go through the details of the crash over and over. These details can have a profound effect on your mental and emotional well-being. What you need and deserve is to have the case resolved as soon as possible and focus on your family’s recovery.
An attorney will help you with that by handling the nitty-gritty details of the case.
So, when should you hire the attorney? The simple answer is immediately. An attorney can do more for you if they get involved in the process as early as possible. Bring them in while the evidence is still fresh. Trust me; you don’t want your attorney to play catch up with the opposing counsel. This hurts your chances more than you think.
How do you hire the right attorney? Here are four simple considerations to help you get the right lawyer for your case:
Experience is crucial in wrongful death cases. Remember, this is a very delicate lawsuit, so you don’t want to leave your case in the hands of an inexperienced fellow. It’s also important to narrow down the experience. Don’t just go for a lawyer with 10 years of practicing experience. Pick one that has 10 years of wrongful death cases experience. Even better, try to find one experienced in auto accident wrongful death lawsuits. Ideally, you want to hire a lawyer that can help you get the case settled as soon as possible. However, they should also be able to go to trial should that be necessary.
A lot of details must be shared back and forth throughout this case. For this to happen correctly, both parties must have excellent communication skills. Therefore, ensure that the lawyer you’re hiring is easy to contact and communicates well. They should be able to give you updates as they happen. They should also address any concerns you may have regarding settlements and other issues.
Law is a busy profession. In fact, you’ll realize that almost every attorney you contact has similar ongoing cases. Knowing that other victims trust them may be a good sign. However, the attorney must also be available for your case. Hire a lawyer that has time for you. One that you can get a hold of when necessary. They don’t have to be by the phone 24/7, but they should definitely be able to create time for you.
What do other lawyers have to say about your attorney? And what are the ratings from their previous clients? Be sure to go through the reviews and testimonials of a lawyer before seeking their services.
It’s important to know what you’ll face if your case goes to trial. Let me just start by pointing out that it won’t be the most pleasing experience in your life.
For starters, various painful details will be discussed regarding the accident itself. Your lawyer may even present the CCTV footage showing the last moments of your loved one’s life. It will be a tough time for you, but it’s all a necessary part of the process. You should also prepare yourself for the counterarguments the opposing counsel will make. Some of their arguments will feel ludicrous and ignorant to you, yet you may have to sit through them all.
Perhaps the most painful part will be seeing the person who took the life of your loved one. Prepare yourself for the waves of emotions you’ll go through during this time. Your lawyer and family should help you during this process. At the end of the case, several things may happen. The at-fault driver could be found guilty and sentenced to jail if the local district attorney had pushed for criminal charges.
In terms of compensations, you’ll be looking at the following options:
- Medical expenses: Sometimes an accident could leave your loved one in the hospital for days or even weeks before they pass on. This leaves your family with high medical bills. The wrongful death claim should include the medical expenses incurred while the deceased was in the hospital.
- Burial and funeral expenses: The claim will also cover funeral and burial expenses.
- Pain and suffering: If the deceased was hospitalized for some time before passing on, your family can file for pain and suffering compensation.
- Loss of income: Your lawyer will sit down with experts and calculate the wages lost by your loved one due to the wrongful death. These wages will be included in the claim.
- Loss of services: You can also file for loss of services if the deceased played a critical role in the family. For instance, if they were responsible for raising children or taking care of a senior member of the family, the services lost will have to be compensated for in the claim.
The process of seeking justice for a loved one lost in a car accident is painful. It can also take quite a long time. However, with the right experts by your side, this process should feel less stressful and overwhelming.