Motor vehicle accidents end in injuries or in the death of one or all the parties involved. According to a 2019 report, there were 751 fatal car accidents in Indiana, resulting in 809 deaths. Despite these figures, most road users still fail to exercise care and caution while driving.
This increases the risk of fatal car accidents and the need for auto accident attorney’s services. This article examines what happens after a fatal car accident. We’ll also look at who can commence a wrongful death lawsuit and the types of compensation.
What to Expect After a Fatal Car Accident
For a traffic collision to become a fatal car accident, the victim must have died from the injuries sustained in the occurrence. Once investigators establish the death, what follows is criminal and civil actions. The preceding would only commence if the following exists:
- The at-fault driver’s negligent or wrongful act caused the victim’s death.
- The death caused harm to the victim’s surviving dependent.
- There’s a beneficiary with the right to claim damages.
For the civil action, the victim’s family or estate would bring a wrongful death lawsuit. During the trial, the claimants must show that the defendant:
1. Owed the Victim a Duty of Care: It stems from the tort concept of fiduciary relationships, a relationship based on trust. It exists between drivers and their passengers, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians. Indiana law recognizes this duty and expects road users to uphold it.
- Breached the Duty of Care: The breach exists when the defendant deviates from what a reasonable person would do in the same circumstance. Breach of duty includes driving under the influence, running red lights, driving distracted, etc.
- Caused the Victim’s Death Through the Breach: Causation is a vital element to prove in wrongful death lawsuits. It is not enough that there was a fatal accident. The plaintiff’s attorney must link the victim’s death to the crash. It means that if the defendant can show that factors outside the collision wounds caused the death, they will not be liable.
2. Caused Damage to the Victim’s Dependents: Lastly, the plaintiff must show that they suffered damages (loses) due to the victim’s death. Damages here cover the loss of the victim’s wages, medical expenses, and funeral and costs. Note that asides from the latter, plaintiffs can only claim the damages the victim would have been entitled to have they lived.
Once the plaintiff’s auto car accident attorney can prove the above, their claim will succeed. The defendant could face jail time and fines on the criminal charge that stems from fatal car accidents. They can also have their driving privileges revoked if there’s evidence of driving while impaired.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana?
In Indiana and other parts of the United States, the purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate dependents of fatal car accident victims. The compensation is a token of consolation for the economic and emotional losses caused by the death. Thus, Indiana laws provide that the person filing a wrongful death lawsuit must have directly suffered losses.
In Indiana, those eligible to file wrongful death lawsuits are:
- The victim’s spouse
- Dependent children of the deceased, mostly minors or those with impairment
- Parents of the victim
- Other relatives if they can show that they depended on the victim in their lifetime.
This simply means that strangers with no relationship with the victim cannot institute a claim. However, where the victim has none of the above but appointed an estate representative before their death, they can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Compensation Follows a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
As mentioned earlier, a wrongful death claim follows a fatal car accident, and the victim’s family can claim damages. Generally, the compensation would cover economic damages and non-economic damages. The former covers expenses that can be calculated to a specific dollar amount.
The latter covers intangible losses that you can’t place a sum on, like pain and suffering. If the court sees that the defendant’s gross negligence led to the fatal car accident, they will award punitive damages. There is no specific sum for this, and it serves as a deterrent to other drivers.
Car Accident Attorneys at Stewart|Phelps|Wood Can Help You!
To file a lawsuit after a fatal car accident, you need the expertise of wrongful death attorneys. At Stewart|Phelps|Wood, we have attorneys with the required experience to help you win. While you focus on grieving for your loved one, we will dedicate our time to getting you justice and the maximum compensation. Find out more about our services by scheduling a free consultation with us today.