What Happens When Someone Dies in a Car Accident?

August 24, 2020 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
What Happens When Someone Dies in a Car Accident?

 Florida Wongful Death Car Accident Claims

More than 33,000 fatal motor vehicle crashes took place across the country last year. These tragic collisions resulted in over 35,000 deaths, and more than 3,000 of those occurred in Florida alone. Each of these thousands of individuals had a group of close loved ones. In many cases, these people may have been the decedents' blood relatives or a network of close friends. When those who are left behind after a tragic death begin to try to pick up the pieces of their lives, they often find the process complex and unforgiving. Many of our clients fail to recognize how deeply someone's death can impact their lives beyond the immense pain of loss. If you've lost a loved one to a fatal car accident, you could be struggling to pay for:
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral costs
  • Additional expenses priorly covered by the decedent
  • Property damages from the accident
The only reliable means through which to pursue compensation for these costs involves hiring a wrongful death or personal injury attorney. A knowledgeable legal professional can help empower you to make the best decisions for your future in court. We know that, all too often, our clients have lost their closest friends. Our team seeks to serve our clients individually and assist them in obtaining the compensation that can allow them to move forward.

Common Causes of Fatal Car Accidents

Many factors on the road have the potential to cause fatal car accidents. Other drivers operating motor vehicles at any given time could behave recklessly or negligently without a moment's warning. Numerous other influential aspects of a drive, whether it's a daily commute or an annual road trip to see family, can influence vehicle occupants' safety, too. A handful of fatal car accidents are all but unpreventable. Because automobile wrecks under these circumstances cannot be considered instances of wrongful death, the process of pursuing any form of compensation is much different. Wrongful death fatal car accidents must directly involve the overt negligence or recklessness of others.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is an extremely risky and negligent behavior. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that more than 3,000 Americans die annually due to negligent and distracted driving by other motorists. Many of us feel unsure of what circumstances constitute distracted driving. You may have heard a news anchor from your favorite television station offer up one example or definition one day, and then read about a different form of distracted driving the next. That's because the issue encompasses a multitude of problematic behaviors. Some of the most commonly observed examples of distracted driving include:
  • Visual distractions: Visual distractions are any distractions that require a driver to take his or her eyes off of the road. This could involve reading or responding to text messages, turning to assist a child in the rear of a vehicle, or even looking down for a moment to switch radio stations. Unfortunately, even behaviors that we view as beneficial—like checking a navigational tool—can qualify as distracted driving and could prove fatal.
  • Manual distractions: The term “manual distraction” refers to any distraction that incites a driver to remove his or her hands from the vehicle's steering wheel. One of the most common examples of this behavior can be found in eating behind the wheel. Taking the time to try to grab something from a bag or purse in the car, adjust your GPS assistant, or swipe through a smartphone are all forms of manual distractions, as well.
  • Cognitive distractions: Cognitive distractions take drivers' minds away from what should be their sole focus: driving. Cognitive distractions can present special risks because others may not recognize them. This decreases the likelihood of either seeing and avoiding the driver or insisting that the driver cease the behavior (if he or she is in your car).

Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence

Brooklyn Car Accident AttorneyOne of the most dangerous driving practices involves getting behind the wheel after partaking in alcohol, drugs, or other similar substances. Impaired driving kills nearly 30 Americans a day. If that's not enough to demonstrate how prevalent and dangerous impaired driving continues to be, consider the following:
  • 17 percent of 2017 traffic deaths amongst children from 0 to 14 years old involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Drugs other than alcohol are involved in over 15 percent of motor vehicle crashes.

Aggressive Driving and Road Rage

Despite a range of state and federal laws mandating that drivers behave appropriately on the road, plenty of motorists end up driving aggressively or committing acts of road rage on a regular basis. In fact, according to information gathered by ABC News, Florida actually leads the nation in annual road rage cases. This explosive and dangerous driving behavior can and does lead to the loss of life for those around raging motorists. Oftentimes, drivers who experience road rage or practice aggressive driving follow some of the same behavioral patterns. Some of the telltale signs that a driver may be a risk on the road include:
  • Speeding, especially in heavy traffic or other dangerous conditions
  • Cutting off other drivers, especially if the motorist slows excessively after passing
  • Excessive weaving through traffic
  • Blocking other drivers who are attempting to navigate the road
  • Throwing objects within or outside of the vehicle
  • Cursing
  • Obscene gestures
  • Side-swiping or ramming other vehicles

Career Drivers' (or Their Companies') Negligence and Misconduct

Don't forget, but we share our roadways with hundreds of commercial vehicles. Some of these are large and have the potential to cause tremendous damage if involved in an accident. Semi-trucks and other similar vehicles, for example, can crush the average passenger car with ease. If an individual responsible for driving such a vehicle makes even the smallest mistake, he or she could easily kill nearby motorists. Some other instances of wrongful death car accidents actually stem from the companies that use these vehicles and hire these drivers. Trucking companies are held responsible for training their drivers, maintaining their vehicles, and ensuring that their staff bases are never overworked. Strict hours-worked laws mandate how long commercial truck operators can be behind the wheel before they must take a break. If a truck driver remains on the road beyond federal legal time limits, or if a large company vehicle fails to perform properly and causes death or injury, the trucking company responsible will likely be held liable.

Should I Speak to Insurance Adjusters?

The short answer: no. If you have already communicated with an insurance adjuster but have not shared details concerning your crash or agreed to any settlements, there's no need to panic. It is, however, far preferable to avoid speaking to such parties until you've partnered with a reliable lawyer. The sad truth of the matter is that insurance adjusters' primary concern does not involve you at all. Their job centers around helping their employers dismiss lawsuits and mitigate compensation whenever possible. It's always best to speak to someone who has your best interests in mind before communicating with parties that are actively attempting to sabotage your efforts. This concept extends to representatives from any company that may have been involved in the fatal crash. If your loved one passed away due to a rideshare accident, for example, you should not speak to Uber or Lyft representatives if they call to speak about the accident. The same goes for trucking companies in instances of death caused by truckers or other large vehicles.

What Damages Can I Recover?

If you've lost a loved one to a car accident, you deserve to feel comfortable and secure if your case ends up going to trial. A skilled and seasoned personal injury or wrongful death attorney should help you recover damages. The legal system mandates appropriate compensation for each individual case, but some of the most popularly-sought and received damages include:
  • Medical bills: This includes costs that you may not initially believe qualify. Basic medical costs, like doctors' visits or surgery bills, can obviously be compensated. Your attorney may also help you achieve compensation for other medical bills, like those associated with medication or physical therapy.
  • Loss of companionship: When somebody we love becomes the victim of a tragedy, it's generally understood that no amount of financial compensation will help ease that pain. One of the most acutely difficult parts of the death of somebody you love is the loss of companionship that comes with it. If you have sustained emotional, physical, or mental damage due to the absence of your loved one's care and companionship, you should seek compensation.
  • Funeral and burial expenses: Unfortunately, holding a funeral is not cheap. An average funeral and burial held today will likely cost around $10,000, and some may require even more cash. The last thing that you or your family deserves after the shocking loss of a loved one is to stress over covering these expenses. This is one reason why our legal system allows victims of personal injury and wrongful death to pursue funeral costs in court.
  • Loss of financial resources: It can be easy to insist that someone's lack of presence is more painful than their lack of financial contribution. The unfortunate truth is that for many of us, the death of a significant other or family has the potential to spell out deep financial trouble. Those whose loved ones have passed away after a car accident can and should pursue compensation to account for the loss of a financial resource.
The damages listed above crop up frequently in stressed conversations as our clients try to determine what steps to take first. Everybody has heard someone discuss his or her struggle to stay on top of medical bills, and unfortunately, you probably experienced somebody close to you feeling flustered at the thought of funding funeral and burial expenses, too.

Examples of Useful Evidence

Oftentimes, the family and friends of those who have been involved in fatal car accidents wonder what steps they can take to help pursue their cases. One of the most pragmatic courses of action involves helping an attorney gather evidence concerning the case. Your lawyer will need a range of evidence to settle or litigate your case. Evidence can help prove your relation to your loved one to allow you to obtain compensation for damages or help show that your loved one's passing was somebody else's fault. The laws that surround wrongful death also dictate that decedents' loved ones must prove that they have been directly impacted by the accident and death. Some of the evidence that may help prove your relationship to the decedent include:
  • Photographs
  • Text, video, or audio messages
  • Letters, calendar entries, etc.
  • Meaningful objects
You'll need to provide ample proof that the relationship you claim with your loved one is entirely true and accurate. This drastically streamlines the legal process and allows both you and your attorney to turn the focus toward more pressing matters. A few examples of evidence that you may have (or can access) that could help prove the nature of your loved one's accident include:
  • Photo or video footage of the accident or its aftermath
  • Photo or video evidence of another driver's clear negligence or reckless behavior

A Wrongful Death Car Accident Attorney Can Help

The legal process is a complex and timely one. The addition of the loss of a loved one only serves to further complicate this involved and demanding process. Empathetic and compassionate wrongful death car accident attorneys understand your position, and they can assist you in your pursuit of fair compensation. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/florida-car-accident-lawyer/


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

Learn More