Fatal Car Accident: What are the Family’s Rights?
Car accidents happen every single day in America. In fact, statistics show that the typical driver will have to file an auto insurance claim once every 17.9 years. Unfortunately, every accident victim doesn’t end up this lucky. In fact, there were a full 34,080 traffic fatalities in 2012 alone, and this was a sharp 5.3 percent increase over the previous year. When a family loses a loved one in a car accident, it can be an extremely disheartening time. Fortunately, they do have certain rights during these times, and though these rights may not bring their loved one back, they can make the aftermath more bearable.
The Family’s Rights
Surviving family members have a host of rights at their disposal if they lose a loved one due to a tragic car accident, and this is even more so the case if another driver’s negligence led to the accident. After the incident, for example, family members have the right to review the police report that was filed in relation to the accident. They can also contact witnesses to the wreck if they want to gain a better understanding of what unfolded during the time the accident occurred.
The website of a Chicago car accident lawyer states “When you are in a vulnerable state, an insurance adjuster may attempt to settle the claim with you. They will ask you to sign documents, which could state you don’t retain the right to file for any future compensation. This can be very dangerous and you shouldn’t sign anything without the advice of competent legal counsel.”
In addition, family members have the right to handle their loved one’s auto insurance policy. This is essential in cases where a negligent driver has no insurance; it provides a potential alternative method of recovering some financial compensation to help with funeral costs and other monetary losses. Lastly, the family has the right to bring forth a wrongful death suit if the negligence of a person, company or even local government caused the fatal accident.
Steps to a Wrongful Death Suit
Before taking any steps in filing a wrongful death lawsuit, a victim’s family needs to be prepared for a lengthy ordeal. Insurance companies will try their best to avoid fair payouts when their policyholders make life-altering mistakes. It’s first important to find out who can legally file the suit. In most states, a victim’s children, spouse and even parents can usually bring forward a claim. These rules can change by state, however, so it’s definitely something to look into.
It’s also important to collect as much evidence as possible in a timely manner. This includes the victim’s former pay stubs, proof of any government benefits and anything else that may prove financial loss to the family. The best way to go about this, however, is to speak with an attorney. A legal professional will know all of the areas that a surviving family can recover compensation from, and better yet, they’ll know how to obtain necessary evidence.
Can a Family go it Alone?
Many people, when faced with any type of lawsuit, believe that they can do better by going it alone. After all, attorneys cost money, and many people think that not paying one will result in a higher cash award for themselves. Unfortunately, some families quickly find out that this simply isn’t the case. Insurance companies have high powered lawyers, and they’re going to put everything that they can into fighting a case that could result in the loss of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
The best option is to at least speak with an attorney. They can give a person a better idea of what they’re up against and what their chances are. The time that it takes to sit through a consultation with an attorney is well worth it if it ensures that a victim’s surviving family members receive all of the financial compensation that they deserve.
The legal system is set up in a way that is meant to protect innocent victims and their families, and this is more true in wrongful death cases than anywhere else. Negligent actions are unacceptable, but when they lead to a person’s untimely death, they can literally reach the level of criminal. Regardless of whether the criminal justice system becomes involved, however, it’s imperative for survivors to seek out an attorney to help file a wrongful death suit.
Valerie Stout Cyrus is a freelance writer who frequently researches car accidents. She has found great resources for writing her articles by using online search criteria like Chicago car accident lawyer or New York personal injury attorney.