Despite advancements in auto safety technology, fatal car accidents still happen. In Ohio, thousands of car accidents occur every year, and over 1,000 people die. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol data, fatal car accidents increased from 1,230 to 1,360 in 2020, which is the highest rate of fatalities the state had seen since 2002.
What happens when a person dies from a car accident? In that situation, surviving loved ones may be in a position to file a wrongful death claim and recover damages. The process can be complicated and stressful, so it is essential to have an experienced lawyer instead of going through the experience alone.
It may sound like a fatal car accident is a fairly straightforward event. Yet, it can be complex depending upon how the death occurred. For instance, some car accident fatalities happen immediately at the crash scene. It is clear that the collision directly caused the death in those situations. What happens if someone receives days or weeks of medical treatment after a car accident and then passes away? Sometimes, insurance providers will try to say something else contributed to the death.
Getting a lawyer involved is essential if your loved one has passed away from a car accident. Car accident lawyers know how to deal with this type of scenario. They can also work with experts, like treating physicians, to ensure that all documentation supports that the individual’s death was caused by the accident.
After the death of a loved one, their dependents may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Since the deceased can no longer file a claim, their dependents can file one on their behalf. In Ohio, surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit, such as a spouse, a parent, or a child. States have specific rules regarding who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Needs to Be Proven in a Wrongful Death Suit?
Many loved ones are shocked when insurance companies balk at offering a fair settlement after a fatal car accident. The problem with accepting an offer prematurely is that the agreement will be binding. This means that dependents need to be diligent when proving that the death occurred due to the negligence of another party. Some of the ways to show the link between the accident and the death include:
- Providing copies of the police report that was generated at the scene.
- Providing evidence, including photos and videos taken at the scene.
- Providing documents created by a medical examiner, attending physician, or another health care professional.
Can More Than One Party Be Liable?
There could be multiple parties involved in a wrongful death suit. For example, some potential defendants could include:
- The other driver or drivers.
- The manufacturer of a defective auto part.
- A government entity, such as a municipality, if faulty road signage or equipment contributed to the fatal crash.
Trying to make sense of all these moving parts can be difficult. A lawyer knows the process and has the experience to unravel everything and deal with multiple parties.
What Happens if an At-Fault Driver Is Convicted Criminally?
Vehicular or involuntary manslaughter are two criminal charges that may be made against the offending driver after a fatal accident. Even if the driver is convicted criminally, you can still pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Successful wrongful death lawsuits allow loved ones to recover two types of damages:
- Economic damages: Economic damages pay for all out-of-pocket expenses due to the fatal accident. These may include funeral expenses, attorney fees, burial expenses, and health care bills. Generally, economic damages are easier to negotiate or validate because they are very trackable. As long as you have copies of paid or outstanding bills and invoices, you should be able to prove your economic expenses.
- Non-economic damages: Non-economic damages do not have a set price. An example is the loss of a partner’s affection or companionship. Another example is emotional distress. To calculate non-economic damages, lawyers use formulas that are typically multipliers of the economic damages. While no amount of money can take away the heartache of losing a loved one, receiving non-economic damages takes away some of the worry related to being able to stay afloat financially.
The actions taken by the deceased driver before the accident may lower or negate a settlement offer. For example, if the driver was intoxicated and dies in a crash, their surviving loved ones may not be able to submit a wrongful death claim. Another factor could be the deceased driver’s speed at the time of the accident.
What Should Be Done After a Fatal Accident?
After losing a loved one in a fatal crash, do your best to take care of everything. Since you will be busy, ask someone trustworthy to go to the accident scene, take pictures, and look for video cameras. Video footage capturing the event could help your case.
Before contacting any insurance carriers about the wrongful death of your relative, consider talking with a lawyer. Most lawyers provide free initial consultations. During the consultation, you will have the opportunity to talk more about the situation. Be sure to bring questions and take notes.
It is critical to remember that you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit within your state’s statute of limitations. Waiting until the statute of limitations has passed will leave you unable to recover damages for the loss of your loved one.
In Ohio, the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim is two years after the death occurred. If your loved one survived for several weeks, your statute of limitations deadline would begin on the date of death and not the day of the accident.
A lawyer can speak with insurance companies and gather evidence. That means you can focus your attention on taking care of all your other arrangements and healing.
Cincinnati Personal Injury Lawyers at the Wolterman Law Office Can Help You if Your Loved One Passed Away From an Accident
If a fatal car accident caused the death of your loved one, speak with one of our compassionate Cincinnati personal injury lawyers at the Wolterman Law Office to find out your legal options. Call us at 513-488-1135 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Located in Loveland, Ohio, we serve the communities of Hamilton County, Fairfield, Norwood, and Forest Park.