Legal Options After Fatal Car Accidents

Posted by Randy Andrus | Mar 22, 2022

Car accidents are one of the most common causes of wrongful deaths. A devastating fact is that many times, fatal car accidents could have been avoided had one or more parties not engaged in negligent or reckless behavior. Speeding, inattentive driving, distracted driving, and other negligent and reckless actions are all common reasons avoidable accidents happen. If your loved one was taken too soon as a result of an avoidable accident, you know about the consequences all too well. Not only are these types of circumstances emotionally traumatic, they also come with a load of financial implications. Unexpected financial concerns can make grieving even more difficult. If you've lost a loved one as a result of someone else's negligence, know that there may be legal options available to you. While no amount of money can bring your loved one back, a wrongful death car accident settlement can help get your financial life back together so that you can focus on healing. In this article, we've outlined what happens after a fatal car accident

If you've suffered the wrongful death of a loved one, we hope this article brings you some clarity on your potential legal options. If you have additional questions and would like to speak with a wrongful death attorney in Utah, our team at Andrus Law Firm is here for you. Schedule your initial consultation by calling 801-535-4645 or filling out our confidential online form here

Potential Legal Actions

In 2019, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that 36,096 people died as a result of a car accident. When this IIHS report was published, the US Department of Transportation's most recent estimation of the annual economic costs of car accidents was $242 billion. Unfortunately, on top of the grief from losing a loved one in an accident, many families have to deal with the reality of final medical expenses, lost income, funeral costs, burial expenses, and other financial implications. To help families recover, various legal options may be available. Note that every case is unique, and the following legal options address general legal options after a fatal car accident. It's advisable to consult a knowledgeable fatal car accident lawyer about the specific facts of your loved one's case. 

Survival Actions

Survival actions can take the place of a personal injury lawsuit that the deceased would have had had they survived. Utah Code § 78B-3-107. Survival actions are brought by the personal representative of the deceased's estate and may include the damages that the deceased sustained from the time of injury to their death or estimated working lifespan, depending on the specific loss. Some examples of survival action damages include pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, lost wages, accident-related medical expenses, and more. 

Wrongful Death Claims

While survival actions are brought on behalf of the deceased and focus on the losses he/she would have incurred had he/she survived the accident, wrongful death suits focus on the losses incurred by the family due to the death of the deceased. Some examples of damages that may be awarded to the lawful heirs of the deceased include: 

  1. The current and future income that the deceased would have provided had he/she lived
  2. Any value of lost benefits, which may include retirement, education, and insurance benefits
  3. Non-economic damages, which may include the loss of companionship, care, support, counsel, and other intangible losses
  4. Funeral and burial costs
  5. Other losses, depending on the specific facts of the case (be sure to discuss other damages that may be included in a potential wrongful death car accident settlement with your lawyer) 

Note that a survival action and a wrongful death claim may be brought simultaneously. Be sure to discuss the specific details with your Salt Lake City wrongful death lawyer

Next Steps After a Wrongful Death in a Car Accident

The first step for pursuing financial, emotional, and physical recovery after a fatal car accident is scheduling a consultation with a Utah wrongful death lawyer who can advise you on the specific facts surrounding your case. Know that, in Utah, the deceased's heirs or personal representatives may bring a wrongful death case. Personal heirs are defined as the surviving spouse, surviving children over 18 years of age (including adopted children), surviving parents (including adoptive parents), surviving stepchildren who are under 18 and financially dependent on the deceased. If there are no surviving legal heirs, other blood relatives may be able to file a wrongful death claim.

Determining If You Have a Wrongful Death Claim

Before you can file, you must determine if you have a legitimate wrongful death claim. Certain elements must exist in order to file a claim:

  1. The death of the deceased must have been caused by the negligence or intentional misconduct of another person 
  2. Financial injuries must be present for the surviving loved ones as a result of the action that led to the death of the deceased
  3. A personal representative must be appointed to represent the deceased family member's estate

Learn more about filing a wrongful death claim here.

The Wrongful Death Claim Process

Your fatal car accident lawyer will review relevant documentation and information to determine the remaining evidence that needs to be collected and begin further investigation. Your lawyer will also help you to calculate economic and non-economic damages. After the evidence has been gathered and the damages have been calculated, your claim will be drafted and filed. The liable party will then be notified of the claim, and they will either submit a wrongful death settlement offer or deny responsibility. If the liable party offers a fair and appropriate wrongful death settlement amount, the case will conclude. If the offer isn't suitable, your lawyer will begin negotiations in an effort to get you the compensation you need and deserve. In the event that an appropriate settlement cannot be reached or the liable party denies liability altogether, the case will go to trial.    

Take Action Sooner Rather Than Later

A misconception people have about wrongful death claims is that they have a vast amount of time to speak with a lawyer and file their claim. However, the Utah wrongful death statute of limitations establishes a timeframe in which heirs must file. Unlike Utah personal injury claims, which have a four-year deadline, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the deceased's death. Some exceptions may apply depending on your case.  

Consult a Trusted Wrongful Death Lawyer

A loved one's death is a life-altering experience with varying degrees of implications. From the obvious and deep emotional ones to the financial aspects that often leave family members wondering how they'll ever recover. No attorney can bring back your loved one, but our team will fight to tell his/her story. We'll work tirelessly to help get you and your family on the journey to financial and emotional recovery. Call our wrongful death lawyer today at 801-535-4645. You may also fill out our confidential online form, and we will reach back out to you. Let us fight for you and your family.   

For more information about wrongful death cases in Utah, read our wrongful death claims FAQs

About the Author

Randy Andrus

BIO   Education University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (LL.M. 1987) Business and Taxation – Transnational Practice Courses and International Bar Association Convention, Salzburg, Austria Southwestern University School of Law (J.D. 1984) Dean's List American Jurisprudence...

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