When families experience the sudden death of one of their own, it’s almost impossible to think straight in the face of such a devastating loss. And yet, decisions made at this critical time can profoundly affect their ability to move forward. After a fatal car accident, families can quickly find comfort in the timely and wise counsel of an experienced vehicle accident lawyer, along with protection of their rights and financial options.
The Law When a Family Member Is Killed in a Traffic Accident
According to the Kentucky State Police, 837 perished in vehicle accidents in 2016: 642 in cars and trucks; 92 while riding motorcycles; 86 as pedestrians; 17 on ATV’s or other alternative motorized vehicles;, and eight while riding their bicycles. Of that total, 139 were killed by drunk drivers (17 percent).
Kentucky Statutes section 411.130 states that wrongful death applies to “the death of a person (that) results from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another.” Therefore, when the injured person is unavailable to seek compensation from the negligent party that caused the injury, the deceased person’s family members must file the claim for damages. If their claim is denied, or fair settlement cannot be negotiated, they file a civil lawsuit.
Not just anyone can file a wrongful death claim. One person – usually the spouse – seeks relief on behalf of all family members. The law allows families to seek the following damages:
- Funeral expenses
- Lost income (including future earnings)
- All medical expenses from treating the injury
- Property damages (the value of the vehicle and any property in it which was destroyed)
- The loss of minor children’s parental affection and companionship
- Spouse’s loss of affection and companionship (loss of consortium)
- Punitive damages, but only if the act was willful or if there was gross negligence.
In addition to drunk drivers, other common causes of wrongful death car accidents include:
- A distracted driver – Studies conclude that 25 percent (or more) of all fatal car crashes are caused by driver distraction of some sort.
- Speeding – Excessive speed is a chief factor in fatal car wrecks. Drivers who speed have much shorter reaction times in which to avoid a collision.
- Defective vehicles or parts – With one of four vehicles on the road today being subject to some sort of recall or having a defective part, car manufacturers and companies that make and distribute replacement parts may be held liable for a fatal accident if the vehicle failed to perform normally.
The Wisdom of Retaining a Seasoned Kentucky Wrongful Death Car Wreck Lawyer
Fatal car wrecks are investigated by law enforcement; but only to the limits of determining whether filing criminal charges is appropriate. Civil investigations – the source of most evidence you need to reinforce your damages claim – are undertaken not only by your lawyer once you hire one, but also by the insurance company of the driver who killed your loved one. Yours must be experienced at accident reconstruction, because the insurance company is looking for evidence (and excuses) to deny your claim.
Most wrongful death claims can produce substantial amounts of money. We’ve seen some as high as seven figures. The other driver’s insurance company will likely deny your claim because that’s what they do. So your lawyer must be well versed in dealing with aggressive insurance companies by effectively investigating the accident, creating the best possible demand package, negotiating with the insurance company and – if all else fails – presenting your strongest possible case in court.
Kentucky law does not guarantee that the at-fault driver will have enough insurance to cover all damages from a car wreck. So if the negligent driver doesn’t have enough insurance, your attorney must be well-versed in dealing with your insurer, who could resist paying, even if you have the proper uninsured or under-insured coverage.
Often, insurance companies will offer only a percentage of your financial claim, thinking you will take the money because your family is in dire financial straits or that you have an inexperienced lawyer. So you need to retain the right attorney who has experience in all the areas we’ve spoken of to protect your family after suffering a wrongful death from a car wreck.
Get Help from a Wrongful Death in a Car Accident Lawyer
If your family has lost a loved one in a car accident, time is of the essence in retaining an experienced car attorney who handles wrongful death claims to protect and aggressively fight for your rightful compensation. By looking past your emotional gridlock and contacting Southeast Kentucky’s Billy Johnson Law Firm at 606-433-0682, or filling out our online form to arrange a free consultation, you’ll quickly discover how we can help your family begin to heal from this tragedy, secure in the knowledge that we’ve got your back.
The consultation is free and you owe nothing until we win your fair compensation.