In the United States of America, a fatal car accident occurs every 12 minutes.
This depicts the alarming state of affairs as far as road safety is concerned. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that in the US about 35,000 people get killed in car accidents every year. Moreover, there has been a steady rise in the number of car accidents over the past ten years.
However, despite this increase, there has been a steady decline in the number of car accident related deaths. This decline can be attributed to better cars, improves safety features and technological advancements in car safety equipment such as restraint systems, using force absorbing material in car manufacturing, and crumple zones.
Nevertheless, when a family loses a member in a car accident, these improvements are limited comfort, especially if the fatality is caused due to negligence of another party. In this post, our St. Louis accident lawyer will discuss wrongful death claims arising from car accidents.
Understanding Wrongful Death
The American Automobile Association identifies the following as the leading causes of fatal accidents –
- Reckless and drunk driving
- Distracted drivers
- Manufacturing defects in cars
- Fatigued drivers
- Inexperienced / elderly drivers
- Street, highway and road defects
- Weather conditions
While not much can be done about weather conditions, all the other causes are preventable. In any car accident it is essential to determine if negligence of another party has caused the accident and the resulting fatality. When the authorities determine negligence as cause, a wrongful death claim can be filed by the family of the deceased from the at-fault negligent party.
Wrongful death statute
All states in the US have a statute for wrongful death and it differs in some way or the other. It gives the family of the deceased victim the legal right to compensation for the loss of their loved one. Wrongful death cases differ from non-fatal car accident or personal injury cases. It is important for the family to first prove the wrongful death claim. To prove a wrongful death claim, one generally must be to able to prove the following.
That a person or an entity was at fault for the fatal accident
One needs to have proof of fault or negligence. For example, if a fatal car crash occurs due to a huge pothole in the road, one may be able to prove that the state or city roadways administration is responsible for not maintaining the roads properly.
That the deceased is survived by a spouse, children, dependent or legal beneficiaries.
Those filing a wrongful death claim generally have to prove their relationship with the deceased. For example, a spouse should provide a wedding license, children will need birth certificates, beneficiaries can provide will statement copies, etc.
Proving that the death of the accident victim has resulted in a monetary loss.
One has to prove that due to the untimely death of the victim, those survived by the deceased will face a financial burden. For example, children or spouse can prove financial disruption due to loss of steady house income earned by the deceased. The court will then look at the last income earned, or if the deceased was unemployed, then the last income or possible future income will be considered.