Car accidents that end in death are tragic. When someone loses their life, it’s not only a tragic and unfair end for them, but it can cause immense pain and suffering for the loved ones left behind. Though no amount of money can ever replace someone you have lost, a wrongful death car accident settlement can make the process of moving on a little easier, at least financially. Wrongful death car accident settlements can compensate surviving family members for such things as medical bills, loss of financial resources, and funeral, burial, or cremation expenses. It can even provide compensation for pain & suffering and loss of companionship.
If you have lost a loved one and need help with a wrongful death claim, our compassionate team of Indiana car accident attorneys at Poynter & Bucheri are here to assist you every step of the way. We understand how delicate these situations can be and are here to help make the process as painless as possible to help your family recover the compensation you need to cover your losses.
Thousands of car accidents result in fatalities every year, but someone dying in a car accident does not automatically mean it is a wrongful death car accident. For an accident to be considered the cause of wrongful death, it must meet specific requirements set forth by state law.
In Indiana, legislative code IC 34-23-1-1 states the following as what constitutes grounds for a wrongful death claim:
“When the death of one is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another, the personal representative of the former may maintain an action therefore against the latter, if the former might have maintained an action had he or she, as the case may be, lived, against the latter for an injury for the same act or omission.”
In other words, or to put it more plainly, wrongful death is when a person’s death was caused by the negligent and wrongful actions of another, the death caused harm to the surviving dependents, and those dependents have a rightful claim to damages as a beneficiary.
Fatal accidents that result in the wrongful death of a person can happen for many reasons, but the primary factor that makes it a wrongful death car accident is the negligence of another person—typically another driver.
In most cases, negligence refers to reckless driving behaviors. And unfortunately, reckless driving has been on the rise over the past couple of years in Indiana.
Nationwide, there has been an 18.4% increase in reckless driving fatalities since 2019, and in Indiana specifically, there has been an 8% increase.
The exact cause of this increase is uncertain, but experts believe that added stress and tensions from the pandemic are significant contributing factors. When people are more stressed, they tend to drive more recklessly, which involves behaviors such as:
- Excessive speeding
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Cutting drivers off
- Sudden braking
- Failing to use turn signals
Wrongful death car accident settlements are intended to compensate the surviving family members or loved ones for their emotional and economic (financial) losses. As such, anyone who seeks to file a wrongful death claim must be able to prove that they are a surviving loved one and that they suffered losses as a result of the death.
In Indiana, the law states specifically that wrongful death claims can only be filed by personal representatives of the deceased person’s estate, which means only surviving family members are eligible. This includes:
- The surviving spouse
- Surviving adult children if the deceased was not married
- The dependent children
- One or both parents if the victim was a child
- The legal guardian if the victim was a child
- The parents if the victim was a young adult
There are three separate wrongful death statutes in Indiana that allow for a claim or lawsuit to be filed, depending on who the deceased was:
- Indiana Wrongful Death Statute: This generalized statute allows for claims to be filed in the event of a wrongful death.
- Indiana Adult Wrongful Death Act: This statute allows for claims specifically in cases where the deceased was someone older than 20 years of age (23 if in college) and is NOT married, and does NOT have any dependents (minor children).
- Indiana Child Wrongful Death Act: This statute covers claims for the wrongful death of a child (under the age of 20 or 23 if in college).
The amount of money awarded in a wrongful death car accident settlement can vary greatly. While a wrongful death lawyer might be able to give you an idea or an average based on previous cases similar to yours, there is no way to guarantee how much you will recover as every case is unique.
The money awarded is primarily based on the damages the surviving family member(s) suffered as a result of the death of their loved one. These damages can include financial losses, such as short and long-term expenses, and noneconomic damages, which hold no monetary value, but are deserving of compensation.
Such damages can include:
- Medical expenses, such as hospital bills from the treatment of the deceased loved one
- Loss of financial resources, such as the deceased’s income
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of support and companionship
- Emotional distress
- Physical pain and suffering
Once all of the damages are calculated, a settlement will be determined. However, the damages suffered are not always apparent. If you want to get the full and fair settlement you deserve, you will need to work with a wrongful death lawyer who can help you obtain and provide all the evidence needed to prove the extent of your financial losses and suffering.
If you have lost a loved one as the result of a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence in Indiana, we are here to help.
At Poynter & Bucheri, we understand how devastating losing a loved one can be. Our team of compassionate and hard-working attorneys will do what we can to help you through this trying time and ensure you walk away with the high-value wrongful death car accident settlement you deserve.