What Should I Do If My Loved One is a Victim in a Fatal Car Accident?

Losing a loved one is always difficult for a family. However, the pain becomes unbearable when a loved one unexpectedly dies from an automobile accident. A family may not know how to handle this sudden death. 

They may be busy managing funeral operations and unaware they can file a claim for wrongful death or an accident. They may also wonder how to move on with their lives without the loved one’s income, championship, and support. 

Beneficiaries of fatal accident victims might be entitled to different compensation from the at-fault negligent driver. With a knowledgeable West Palm Beach wrongful death lawyer, you can increase your chances of a successful outcome. Contact us today for a free consultation.

In this article, we focus on the actions you need to take if a fatal vehicle accident in West Palm Beach, Florida, kills a loved one. 

Understanding Wrongful Death

Wrongful death results from “the wrong act, negligence, default, or breach of contract” of another person. The deceased victim’s survivors can file a wrongful death action against drivers whose negligence caused the fatal accident. Examples of negligent acts are driving while impaired, speeding, distracted driving, tailgating, illegal lane change, wrong-way driving, etc.

What Can You Do if Your Loved One Died in a Car Accident?

According to reports conducted by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, about 3,465 fatal crashes in the state resulted in 3,760 fatalities in 2021. Car accidents that result in death are preventable, but there is time to seek compensation when a crash occurs.

Florida’s wrongful death statutes allow some family members to seek compensation for losing a close relative due to someone else’s negligence. A wrongful death claim exists when, if the deceased victim had survived, they would have been able to file a personal injury case. After the victim’s death, the legal right is transferred to the victim’s family. 

Here are the steps to take when filing a wrongful lawsuit:

  • File a Claim

To recover damages in Florida, you must first file a claim against all potentially liable parties and their insurance providers. A West Palm Beach wrongful death lawyer can help identify the proper parties.

  • Investigation of Accidents

The investigation stage involves contacting witnesses, retrieving any street surveillance cameras that may be present, and taking photos and videos. Then, if needed, your West Palm Beach wrongful death lawyer can have an accident reconstruction expert help establish the other party’s liability.

  • Contact a West Palm Beach Wrongful Death Lawyer

If a loved one dies after a crash, many people are hesitant to speak with a lawyer because they are unsure whether doing so is necessary. Although they are not required to do so, having legal representation can increase the chances of reaching a favorable and fair outcome.

Hiring a lawyer also boosts your confidence during the claims process. An attorney will help gather evidence, prove your claim, negotiate a fair settlement, and represent you in court. 

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

Close family members can seek compensation under Florida wrongful death statutes. However, a wrongful death lawsuit may only be filed by a decedent who suffered damages due to the death. People who can file a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Financial dependent
  • Parents of a deceased child

If you lose a loved one and are unsure of your right to file a claim, contact a West Palm Beach wrongful death lawyer.

How to Prove That Your Loved One Died as a Result of Negligence

As previously mentioned, a wrongful death claim helps survivors seek compensation. However, just because you allege negligence does not mean the at-fault driver’s insurance company will make a settlement offer. 

You must demonstrate the defendant’s responsibility for the accident. Therefore, a plaintiff must show that:

  • The defendant owed the victim a duty to exercise reasonable care as a prudent person would do under that circumstance
  • The defendant’s action breached the duty of care
  • The breach caused the victim’s death 
  • The survivors suffered damages as a result of the victim’s death

What Damages Can You Recover After a Fatal Car Accident?

After a fatal car accident, the decedent’s legal beneficiaries may bring a wrongful death claim to recover damages. However, the settlement often covers what the victim would have been entitled to if they survived and what the beneficiaries lost due to the death.

The compensation depends on many factors, including how long the victim lived after the accident, the number of dependents, and funeral costs. The following are the available damages in a wrongful death case:

  • Medical Costs

Not all victims die immediately from the crash impact. Some stay alive for days, weeks, or months and incur hefty medical bills. Florida law allows beneficiaries to seek compensation for the money spent on the victim while hospitalized.

  • Lost Wages and Earning Capacity

The victim may have also supported their family financially. Therefore, the beneficiaries can seek compensation for those lost wages and loss of earning capacity. 

  • Pain and Suffering

If the decedent lived after the accident, they might have suffered from pain. This would be the case if they suffered catastrophic injuries. The beneficiaries can seek compensation for their pain and suffering. However, proving this is difficult without the help of an experienced lawyer.

  • Funeral and Burial Costs

The beneficiaries may also recover funeral and burial costs for the deceased.

  • Loss of a Companionship

Family members may be compensated for the loss of intimacy and companionship. For example, if the victim was married, their wife could demand loss of consortium and loss of contribution to the household.

Another compensation that the law allows is emotional anguish and mental distress. In addition, if the victim’s property was damaged in the crash, the at-fault party may also be responsible. Finally, beneficiaries can demand punitive damages if there is evidence of willful or gross negligence by the at-fault driver. 

What Is the Florida Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death?

The Statute of Limitations for wrongful death lawsuits in Florida is two years. This means the case must be filed within two years of the victim’s death. If the suit does not commence within this time, it becomes statute-barred, meaning no court will entertain the claim.

Contact a West Palm Beach, Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

We understand that the death of a loved one can be devastating. Thankfully, you can file a claim under Florida’s wrongful death law to seek compensation from a negligent driver. Although no amount of money can bring your loved one back, it can mitigate the impact of the loss.

Therefore, contact the West Palm Beach wrongful death attorneys at Frankl Kominsky Injury Lawyers. We are compassionate and thorough in our pursuit to help you seek compensation. (By appointment only).

Contact us at (561)-800-8000 for a free consultation if your loved one has died in a car accident in West Palm Beach, Florida. We work on a contingency fee basis.

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