When a person loses their life in a car accident, the immediate needs of their family and community often overshadow the legal issues at hand. The grief of the loss can make it difficult for the victim's loved ones to even think about taking legal action, even if they know that it is warranted.
However, in circumstances where another person's actions or negligence cause the death of the victim, it is often necessary to file a wrongful death claim to seek justice. Of course, not all fatal accidents support wrongful death suits, so it is wise to examine what the law has to say about your specific circumstances if you are unsure.
Did the accident result in criminal charges?
Often, if an accident results in criminal charges for the responsible party, then it is likely that the circumstances support a wrongful death suit. Criminal charges only arise when law enforcement believes that the person who caused the accident broke the law while doing so.
However, even if there are no criminal charges, you may have grounds to file a civil lawsuit. Civil suits help resolve conflicts or injustices between parties even when neither side did anything criminal.
A civil suit addresses situations where one party violates the rights of another party. A wrongful death accident usually justifies a civil suit, even if there are no criminal charges after the accident.
What if the victim survives the accident but dies later?
In many cases, accident victims survive the initial harm, but die later on. These situations can still justify wrongful death claims, as long as the victim dies because of the injuries they sustained in the accident.
In contrast, if a person who is battling cancer receives serious injuries in a car accident, but later succumbs to the cancer, then a wrongful death suit is not likely to succeed. Even though the victim suffered real harm, if their death was not caused by the accident, then the death is not legally considered wrongful.
Even so, the victim's loved ones should still consider their legal options for seeking full compensation for the medical expenses and other losses that the accident caused. In the case of the cancer patient, even if the car accident does not kill them, it may still result in thousands of dollars in medical costs. The party who caused the accident should still accept liability for those expenses.
Protecting your rights begins today
Anyone who has lost a loved one in a car accident is already dealing with a large burden. It is often difficult in these moments to feel that protecting yourself from future losses is useful.
But a strong legal strategy can ensure that you have the tools and knowledge to keep your rights and priorities secure while you recover from your loss and begin to rebuild.