Wrongful Death in Car Accidents
Fatal car accidents cause a wrongful death when the death is caused by another person’s negligence. Families can recover wrongful death compensation from a driver who was more negligent than the deceased victim.
Wrongful death compensation helps close family members move forward with their lives. Apart from giving family members the satisfaction of knowing that justice was done, compensation replaces lost income that the victim would have contributed to the family.
In addition, wrongful death compensation recognizes the other losses that families endure, including the loss of affection and guidance that the victim would have provided if the victim had not died.
Wrongful death compensation can always be awarded when the negligence of another person caused a car accident victim’s death. Who should apply for the compensation is one of the first questions a wrongful death lawyer will consider when family members seek representation after a loved one dies in a car accident.
Family Members Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case After a Car Accident
Wrongful death claims are usually commenced by family members. However, not every relative of the deceased victim can bring the claim. Rather, the law specifies which family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
When the deceased victim is survived by a spouse, the spouse is entitled to bring the claim. If the victim was not married at the moment of death, the victim’s surviving children can bring the claim. The victim’s children can also bring the claim if the victim’s surviving spouse refuses to do so.
If the victim had no spouse or living children at the moment of death, either of the victim’s surviving parents can bring a wrongful death claim. They can bring the claim jointly if they are married and living together.
When the victim is not survived by a spouse, children, or parents, the victim’s estate can bring the claim. The law thus assures that someone will always be authorized to bring a claim when a wrongful death is caused by a car accident.
Distribution of Wrongful Death Proceeds After a Car Accident
Families should keep in mind that the law governing who can commence a wrongful death lawsuit does not dictate how the proceeds of a wrongful death claim will be distributed. Rather, a different law dictates how wrongful death compensation will be shared.
When the victim’s spouse is living, the spouse is entitled to keep the compensation if the deceased had no surviving children. If the deceased had one or two children who are still living, the compensation is divided equally among the spouse and children.
If the deceased had more than two surviving children, the spouse is entitled to one-third of the compensation and the remaining compensation is divided equally among the children. When children bring the claim in the absence of a surviving spouse, compensation is distributed equally among the children.
If the deceased victim had a child who died before the victim, the share of compensation that the child would have received in any of the circumstances discussed above is distributed in equal shares to the child’s surviving children.
When one or both parents bring the claim, the compensation is distributed to the surviving parent or in equal shares to parents who are married and living together. If the victim’s parents are both living but are divorced or separated, the court has discretion to award more compensation to one than the other, but wrongful death lawyers usually ask the parents to agree in advance to share the compensation equally.
When the estate brings the claim, compensation is distributed according to the deceased victims’ Will. If the victim died without a Will, it is distributed in accordance with state laws governing the property of people who die intestate.