Introduction to Wrongful Death Cases
A lot of this Car Accident Settlement Center focuses on recovery for injuries, including the following:
- Herniated Disk Injuries
- Knee Injuries
- Facial Injuries
- Brain Injuries
- Broken Bone Injuries
- Back and Neck Injuries
- Neck Injuries
- Wrongful Death
However, some persons involved in car accidents also end up dying unfortunately. Beyond the obvious emotional loss, their loss leaves many practical holes that cannot be filled. Their absence is felt in their old place of employment, home, and in many other ways. To right the wrong caused by the car accident and subsequent death, many next of kin to the deceased file wrongful death actions to seek compensation. This cause of action alleges that someone is legally responsible for the death of another and that the death caused damages to his or her survivors. The type of damages that survivors might seek varies but normally settles on some of the following things:
- Funeral expenses.
- Lost companionship (typically to spouses).
- Lost wages.
- Lost support (typically to children).
The idea that someone can bring an action to recover for the death of someone else is a modern notion. The United States did not originally allow for this and the laws that it inherited, England’s, did not provide for a similar cause of action either. However, over the last 100 years, federal courts and all state courts have opened the door to wrongful death actions. Therefore, understanding the particulars of this lawsuit is important. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
1. What must I allege in a wrongful death cause of action?
First, you must establish that someone else is legally responsible for the death of the deceased. For instance, if someone ran a red light, crashed into, and killed another driver, then this would suffice. Alternatively, if an object flew off of a company’s truck and caused a driver to veer off the road, crash into something, and die, then this would also work for this point. Second, you must prove that someone survived the deceased with the proper legal relationship. Normally, this is either the next of kin or some other legally recognizable relationship such as a beneficiary. Do not forget, however, that you must be able to prove this with documentation such as a birth certificate, marriage license, or other form. Third, you must show that the decedent’s death caused damages to the person bringing the action. Some of the kinds of damages were mentioned above, but just like with the second component of this suit, it is important to keep in mind that the more precisely you can prove a loss here the better.
2. Who can bring a wrongful death cause of action?
Generally, people with a sufficient interest to bring a wrongful death lawsuit are defined by states themselves. Yet, even if you are identified as someone who could potentially bring this cause of action, you still must suffer damages because of the decedent’s death. Immediate relatives are invariably included with the segment of persons permitted to bring wrongful death actions (this includes spouses, children, and even parents in some instances). After this class of prospective plaintiffs, more distant relatives and cohabitants may be allowed to file these lawsuits (this includes siblings, grandparents, dependents, and domestic partners). Finally, and least regularly, some states allows persons with a financial interest to bring a wrongful death suit if they were adversely affected by the decedent’s passing.
3. Against whom can a wrongful death cause of action be brought?
The breadth of people and groups the can be sued for wrongful death is wide. Generally, any individual or entity responsible for damages related to the wrongful death of another is legally obligated to pay them. Thus, a person must pay if he or she drivers carelessly and causes another’s death; a company might have to pay if its employee caused the death of another in a car accident; a car manufacturer might have to pay if its negligently designed/manufactured/marketed product led to another’s death; or a bar might have to pay if it over-served a patron and that caused the death of another. This is not an exhaustive list but it does include some common defendants and circumstances of wrongful deaths with car accidents.
4. Does anyone have immunity from a wrongful death lawsuit?
Yes. In some instances, state law provides for immunity from wrongful death lawsuits to a protected class. This protected class normally includes government workers, government bodies, and sometimes even family members. However, this can change from state to state so you should check your own state’s laws to see if you can sue the person at fault in your accident.
Wrongful Death Statistics
- Approximately 1 in 4 of all accidents in the U.S. occur as a result of motor vehicle accidents.
- Approximately 1 in 10,000 people die in the U.S. yearly because of a motor vehicle accident.
- Approximately 30,000 people die in the U.S. yearly because of motor vehicle accidents.
- Approximately 10,000 people die Illinois yearly because of motor vehicle accidents.
- Approximately 1 in 14,000 people die in Illinois yearly because of a motor vehicle accident.
- Motor vehicle accidents cause the U.S. over $100 billion in costs and damages.
- Across the country, approximately 39% of accidents involved cars, 25% involved pickups/suv’s, 2% involved big trucks, 13% involved motorcycles, 14% involved pedestrians, and 2% involved bicyclists.
- Across Illinois, approximately 43% of accidents involved cars, 22% involved pickups/suv’s, 2% involved big trucks, 15% involved motorcycles, 13% involved pedestrians, and 3% involved bicyclists.
- Across the country, approximately 57% of crashes involved one vehicle and approximately 43% of crashes involved more than one vehicle.
- Across Illinois, approximately 55% of crashes involved one vehicle and approximately 45% of crashes involved more than one vehicle.
Further Wrongful Death Resources
Here are some resources to help you understand what recovery might be possible if someone you know has died in a car accident: