When your loved one dies in an auto accident, the shock alone will be hard on you and your family. Unfortunately, the situation only worsens when you discover your loved one’s death occurred because another driver acted in a negligent or careless manner while behind the wheel. Whether it was a drunk driver or a person greatly exceeding the speed limit who killed your loved one, you are now contemplating filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Should you do so? Here are some facts you should keep in mind when making your decision.
Was the Death Actually “Wrongful?”
To file a successful wrongful death lawsuit, it first must be established that your loved one’s death was actually considered to be “wrongful” according to the law in your state. For a death to be classified as “wrongful,” it must have been caused by the negligence or wrongful act of another person, both of which usually apply to deaths resulting from car accidents.
Legal Representative Files the Lawsuit
When your loved one dies in an auto accident, keep in mind that only the legal representative of your loved one’s estate has the authority to file a wrongful death lawsuit. To do so, you must petition the probate court to be appointed as the legal representative of the estate. In some cases, you may only have 30 days to do this, so don’t procrastinate.
Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer
Cases such as these are always complex and often have insurers and defendants fighting hard to avoid paying compensation to a victim’s family. Because of this, you should always hire a wrongful death attorney who specializes in auto accident cases and has a proven track record of wins for their clients. Not only can an experienced lawyer help you and your family get the compensation you deserve, but they can also provide emotional support and key legal advice as your case progresses.
Recovering Punitive Damages
Finally, most wrongful death lawsuits let loved ones recover punitive damages. While in some instances a court may allow for the recovery of future lost income your deceased family member would have earned during their lifetime, most states focus solely on punitive damages in these cases as a way to punish the defendant for their actions.
Since you may have less than two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit following your loved one’s untimely death, time is of the essence. By contacting a wrongful death attorney right away and discussing the circumstances of your loved one’s auto accident and death, you and your family can see justice served and gain the financial compensation you need to move forward in the years ahead.
Author information: Rachelle Wilber is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn’t on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Follow her on Twitter: @RachelleWilber