Over a million people die in car accidents in the United States each year. No one wants to become a part of that tragic statistic, but the unfortunate truth is that almost anyone can be affected. Having a loved one pass away following an accident is always sad, but it can also be infuriating when another driver’s negligence causes the crash. This article will focus on how surviving family members can channel their grief and anger into getting justice for their deceased loved ones.
At-Fault Drivers and Criminal Charges
Sometimes, surviving family members can rely on the legal system to get justice for a loved one killed in an accident. However, not all wrongful deaths are criminally prosecuted, even when it’s clear that someone else was at fault. The at-fault driver will only face vehicular manslaughter charges if their carelessness or recklessness caused the accident.
The decision as to whether to charge a negligent driver who causes the death of another person lies with the local district attorney (DA). Deciding whether the driver was criminally culpable requires the office of the DA to consider many factors, including:
- Whether the at-fault driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If the driver was acting recklessly or ignoring traffic laws.
Whether there were additional factors outside of the responsible driver’s control that played a contributing role.
Generally, criminal charges are less standard in cases with mitigating factors like poor road conditions, unpredictable mechanical failures, or unforeseeable natural disasters.
Other Ways of Seeking Justice
The at-fault driver doesn’t have to be convicted of a crime to be held responsible for the victim’s wrongful death. The deceased victim’s estate or surviving family members can often file wrongful death lawsuits. As a general rule, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed whenever the dead victim could have filed a personal injury suit had they survived.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
Only certain parties can sue for wrongful death following a car accident. While the rules vary by state, most laws include provisions for suits brought by the victim’s spouse or parents. A representative for the person’s estate can also file a wrongful death lawsuit in most places.
No amount of money can bring back the victim of an accident. However, the ability to sue for damages such as medical bills from the person’s injury, medical care, lost wages, and funeral costs can make it possible for surviving family members to pay bills and start moving on. Intangible damages such as the physical pain, suffering, and mental anguish the deceased may have faced before their death and the loss of companionship, care, or income meeting the family can also be considered.
Proving Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death cases are handled similarly to personal injury cases. They focus on proving negligence, which can be challenging depending on the circumstances because there are always time limits for filing suits; surviving loved ones should contact a lawyer who can help immediately.
The Importance of Hiring a Lawyer
The last thing many families want to think about when they lose loved ones unexpectedly is dealing with a potentially complicated court case. Hiring a lawyer gives them the best chances of winning a wrongful death suit and getting the compensation required to start moving forward, and time to focus on funeral arrangements and grieving for the deceased.