Filing a Lawsuit Against an At-Fault Deceased Motorist

by | Mar 27, 2024

When a car accident results in the death of a driver involved, the legal proceedings can become significantly more complex. This situation demands a deep understanding of the relevant laws and procedural nuances. The issue of whether one can sue a deceased driver arises, necessitating a detailed exploration of legal entitlements, potential responsibilities, and the options for pursuing damages.

In this article, we’ll review some relevant questions that the families of fatally-injured accident victims may have and, some practical solutions.

Table of Contents

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In most instances, individuals who are designated as beneficiaries or representatives of the deceased person’s estate typically have the legal standing to bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit. Commonly, these are immediate family members of the deceased – including spouses, children (both biological and adopted), and parents. These individuals often bear the brunt of emotional and financial losses resulting from the untimely death of their loved one and are therefore granted the legal authority to seek compensation and justice on their behalf.

In addition to immediate family members, some jurisdictions permit other individuals who were financially dependent on the deceased or who suffered direct harm as a result of the death to file a wrongful death claim. This may include domestic partners, stepchildren, or other individuals who can demonstrate a substantial relationship with the deceased.

It’s important to note that the specific requirements and procedures for filing a wrongful death lawsuit can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding the death. Consulting with an experienced attorney who specializes in wrongful death cases is crucial for understanding the legal options available and navigating the complexities of the legal process.

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Who Are The Potential Defendants in a Case Involving a Deceased At-Fault Driver?

When the driver responsible for a car accident has died, there are still several avenues through which compensation for damages might be sought. Possible parties that could be held accountable include:

  • The Deceased Driver’s Estate: Despite the driver’s death, their estate might bear liability for damages caused by the accident. Depending on local laws, it’s often possible to pursue personal injury claims against the estate, with any insurance the driver had potentially serving to compensate those harmed.
  • Vehicle Owner: If the deceased was driving a vehicle they didn’t own, the vehicle’s owner might be liable if they negligently allowed an unfit driver access to their car, a concept known as negligent entrustment.
  • Employer of the Driver: Employers can be held responsible if the accident occurred while the driver was performing job-related duties, due to a principle known as respondeat superior.
  • Manufacturers and Other Third Parties: In situations where vehicle defects or poorly maintained roads contributed to the accident, manufacturers or even governmental bodies responsible for road upkeep might be held liable.
  • Your Insurance Provider: If the deceased driver’s insurance is insufficient or unavailable, your own insurance might cover the damages through uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

Dealing with the aftermath of an accident involving a deceased at-fault driver can be legally complex. Consulting with a skilled car accident attorney in Cincinnati can help clarify your options, assist in evidence collection, and support your pursuit of rightful compensation.

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Considering Legal Action After a Fatal Car Accident: Wrongful Death vs. Survival Action

Deciding between filing a wrongful death or survival action lawsuit following a car crash that resulted in the at-fault driver’s death involves understanding the specifics of the accident, the nature of the losses incurred, and the legal framework governing such cases in your area.

It’s important to keep in mind:

  • Wrongful Death Lawsuit:
    • This type of lawsuit is often initiated by the relatives or estate representatives of someone who has died due to another’s negligence or harmful actions.
    • If a family member was killed in the accident and the at-fault driver is deemed responsible, you might consider a wrongful death claim to seek reparations for the deceased’s beneficiaries and the estate.
    • Damages claimed can cover funeral costs, loss of income to the family, emotional distress, and the loss of companionship and support.
  • Survival Action Lawsuit:
    • This lawsuit is pursued on behalf of the deceased’s estate to claim damages the deceased could have sought if they had lived.
    • If you were injured but survived the crash, a survival action allows you to claim compensation for injuries and damages incurred due to the accident.
    • The estate can claim for the deceased’s medical bills, pain and suffering before death, lost earnings, among other damages.

Engaging with an experienced car accident attorney can help to determine what your legal options are – helping you to choose the right path for your potential lawsuit. An attorney will not only clarify the legal details but also represent your interests, working to secure the maximum amount of financial compensation available for your case.

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What Are Some Possible Areas To Recover Compensation In a Car Accident Lawsuit?

In cases where a car accident led to the death of the at-fault driver, the available compensation for the injured parties can vary based on the accident’s specifics, the nature of the injuries or losses incurred, and the legal standards within the specific jurisdiction. Despite the complexities introduced by the at-fault driver’s demise, victims may still pursue various forms of compensation.

Potential types of compensation might include:

  • Medical Costs: Compensation might cover all medical treatments related to the accident, such as emergency care, surgeries, ongoing medical appointments, medications, physical therapy, and anticipated future medical needs.
  • Income Loss: If injuries from the accident prevented you from working or affected your future earning ability, compensation for both past and future lost wages could be sought.
  • Pain and Suffering: This category aims to compensate for the physical pain and emotional distress endured due to the accident and resulting injuries.
  • Property Damage: Compensation can be sought for repairs or replacement of your vehicle and other personal belongings damaged in the crash.
  • Loss of Consortium: If the accident adversely affected relationships with your spouse or family, you might be eligible for damages related to loss of companionship or support.
  • Funeral Costs: In situations where the accident resulted in a fatality, the bereaved family members might claim costs for funeral and burial services, among other related expenses.
  • Punitive Damages: In extreme cases where the accident resulted from particularly reckless behavior, punitive damages may be awarded as a punishment to the responsible party and a deterrent against future misconduct.

Engaging with an experienced personal injury lawyer can help to assess your specific situation, estimate potential damages, and help you to explore your legal rights and potential avenues for compensation.

Through Injury Law Support, we offer a complimentary service connecting accident victims with a curated selection of local injury attorneys ready to evaluate and potentially take on your case. By filling out the “Free Case Review” form on our site, you’ll get connected with a lawyer who will offer a no-cost initial consultation to discuss your case’s merits and possible next steps.

This service is entirely free, with no fees or obligations required to learn about your legal options and potentially start your compensation journey.

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