What Happens When Someone Dies in a Car Accident?

Car accidents are known for either injuring individuals minorly or severely or killing them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 38,000 people die in motor vehicle traffic yearly in the United States. While some people die at the scene, others survive long enough to get to the hospital. But unfortunately, they die while receiving treatment.

Survivors of a deceased car accident victim have to deal with the loss of their loved one and the financial burden that comes with it. Unfortunately, this often proves too much for them, and they don’t always know the steps to take. In this article, we’ll discuss what happens when someone dies in a car accident. Although, if you lost a loved one to an auto crash, that’s not their fault, our wrongful death lawyers at FBD Law can help you get compensation.

What to Expect When Someone Dies in a Car Accident? 

When a person dies in a traffic collision, two things are bound to happen. One is a criminal charge against the fault party, and the other is a civil lawsuit for damages. We will consider the two of them one after the other.

Criminal Charge 

When a person dies in a car accident, there is a high likelihood that the person responsible for the crash would face a criminal charge. This often happens when the fault driver acted carelessly or recklessly. An example and perhaps the most common is when a driver drinks and drives and an accident occurs.

The motorist would likely face a DUI charge as well as a homicide charge for the death. We should point out that even if an accident does not end in death, the fault party might still face a criminal charge depending on the facts of the case. The decision to bring a charge against the driver often lies with the local district attorney after the police conclude their investigation. The DA will access several factors alongside the evidence to determine if there’s a case to answer.

These factors usually include:

  1. Whether the accident occurred when the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  2. Whether the driver drove recklessly or blatantly ignored traffic laws, like running red lights. This is because every driver owes other road users a duty of care and must uphold it at all times.

When factors outside the driver’s control, like a medical emergency or adverse road conditions, caused the accident, the person may not face criminal charges. Another instance where the fault party would not face criminal prosecution is where they die in the crash.

Civil Action

After a fatal car accident, a civil action called a wrongful death lawsuit is the second thing that happens. Here, the victim’s survivors would ask for compensation from the fault party. But, again, they can do this irrespective of whether the fault driver is facing a criminal charge already.

In New Mexico, legal beneficiaries cannot file a wrongful death claim themselves. The law leaves that to the personal representative of the deceased’s person. The representative would commence the action on behalf of the beneficiaries and give the recovered benefits to the beneficiaries.

The recoverable benefits in this action are:

  • Lost wages
  • Hospital bills
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of companionship
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish
  • Funeral and burial expenses, etc.

Since accidents are sudden, there’s a likelihood that the victim did not have time to name a personal representative to their estate. In that case, the court would appoint a personal representative. Note that for a wrongful death claim to exist, the victim must have been eligible to commence a personal injury action before their death.

Should Survivors Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer After a Fatal Car Accident? 

Yes, you should. In as much as the deceased’s personal representative would be the one handling the claims process, you should hire a wrongful death attorney. The attorney would watch out for your interest and ensure that you get what you deserve. It’s no secret that some personal representatives cheat beneficiaries on their benefits, so ensure you have an attorney representing you throughout the entire process.

Get Help From FBD Law Today!

Did you lose a loved one in a car accident that is not their fault? If yes, then you deserve compensation. At FBD Law, our wrongful death lawyers have the experience and knowledge to help you secure maximum compensation. However, we work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t pay us until the final determination of your case. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

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