What Steps Should I Take If I Lose a Loved One in a Car Accident?

There is no question that car accidents can be extremely stressful and traumatic for the motorists involved, particularly when the accident causes extensive property damage and serious injuries. However, damage to the vehicle can often be repaired and injuries usually heal when treated properly. Losing a family member in a sudden accident is devastating. Although the last thing the surviving family members want to think about are costs associated with the loved one’s death, taking legal action against the motorist who caused the accident will ensure that the family receives the compensation they deserve. An experienced and compassionate car accident lawyer will work closely with the family and secure the financial compensation they deserve.

What Should Be Done Immediately Following a Fatal Accident?

Whether a car accident is a minor fender bender or a serious collision, there are several steps that motorists should take, which are particularly important when serious injuries and fatalities are involved:

  • Call 911 immediately. If the driver is physically able to do so, they should call 911 and report the accident. The dispatcher should be told that there are severe injuries that require immediate medical attention. If a motorist was fatally injured, the dispatcher should be informed. Everyone should try to stay calm until help arrives.
  • Gather evidence. It is always recommended that motorists take pictures of the accident scene. This is particularly important when the accident results in fatalities. If the surviving family files a wrongful death claim, evidence from the scene of the accident, including pictures of property damage and injuries, road conditions, and witness testimonials, will help build a strong case.
  • Seek medical attention. Chances are, if a car accident caused a fatality, it is likely that other motorists involved suffered injuries as well. Everyone involved may have injuries that are masked by the adrenaline rush caused by the shock of the accident. If possible, everyone should move away from the scene of the accident and ask for medical assistance at the scene. Ideally, all involved in the accident should be checked out by a medical professional at the nearest hospital. This could rule out any head injuries, internal bleeding, or organ damage that may not be immediately detected.
  • Do not leave the scene. The driver who caused the accident should not panic and flee the scene. If a car accident involved fatalities and a motorist left the scene of the accident before police arrived, he or she could face criminal charges.
  • Exchange information. This may not be possible if the other driver involved was also seriously hurt or killed. The safety of the individuals involved is always the priority. However, fatal car accidents will likely lead to a wrongful death claim or survival action. Therefore, if drivers can exchange information, including insurance and contact information, it is highly recommended.
  • File a police report. The police officer who arrives at the scene will likely file an accident report. However, if the officer does not file a report, drivers should talk to witnesses and write down everything possible about the accident, including the date, time, and location of the crash, as well as any other information that may be helpful in reaching a successful settlement.
  • Notify the insurance company. A fatal car accident is a serious matter. A driver should contact their insurance agent about the accident right away to initiate the claims process and collect compensation.
  • Contact an experienced accident lawyer. It is highly recommended that clients consult a lawyer who will ensure that the family receive the financial compensation they deserve. Although this cannot bring their loved one back, it can help cover the costs associated with the loss, including funeral expenses, lost wages, and other expenses.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

When a family member is fatally injured in a car accident as a result of another driver’s negligence, the surviving family members often believe that they have been wronged, and that their loved one’s death could have been avoided if it were not for the negligent or reckless behavior of the other driver. A wrongful death claim allows the surviving family members of a deceased person to file a civil lawsuit against the other motorist for damages, which may include pain and suffering, current and future loss of income, medical expenses associated with the victim’s injuries, and funeral expenses. Wrongful death claims can be filed by the deceased’s spouse, his or her children, a parent if there is no spouse, or the estate.

For the surviving family members to pursue a wrongful death claim in Maryland, the following needs to be true:

  • A fatality occurred.
  • The fatality was caused by the negligence of the other driver.
  • The negligence resulted in damages to the family member or beneficiaries.
  • The family members filed a wrongful death claim within the statute of limitations.

What Should Grieving Families Know About Wrongful Death Accidents?

Grieving families have enough to worry about after the sudden and tragic loss of a loved one. To avoid the additional stress associated with a wrongful death lawsuit, surviving family members should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Hire an experienced car accident lawyer. This is possibly the most important step that families can take. A dedicated lawyer will protect the family’s legal rights and ensure that they receive the financial compensation for which they are entitled, including funeral expenses, medical costs associated with the deceased’s treatment, and lost wages. Unfortunately, insurance companies will try to protect their own interests and offer a settlement amount that is well below what the family deserves.
  • Never speak to the insurance company’s lawyer. Oftentimes, insurance company lawyers will take advantage of grieving families and use unfair tactics to get them to talk about the accident. They can twist their words to shift the blame from their client to the deceased motorist.
  • Maryland is a contributory negligence state. This means that if it is determined that the deceased is even partly responsible for causing the accident, compensation may be denied. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to hire an experienced lawyer who will work tirelessly to protect a client’s rights and recover the maximum financial compensation they deserve.

What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action?

Although a wrongful death lawsuit focuses on the grief and financial losses of the surviving family members, a survival action focuses on the suffering of the deceased person. In a survival action, the deceased’s estate may recover damages similar to what he or she could have recovered in a personal injury lawsuit, such as pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages. The compensation would be dispersed to the estate rather than to the surviving family members. A survival action is usually filed by the executor of the deceased’s estate. In Maryland, family members can pursue a survival action or a wrongful death lawsuit. Other states require them to choose one.

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Wrongful Death?

In addition to another motorist whose negligent or reckless driving causes a fatality, the following are additional examples of parties who may be held responsible for a wrongful death:

  • Negligent commercial truck drivers and trucking companies
  • Manufacturers responsible for making faulty auto parts that either cause a serious collision or make it more serious than it should have been
  • Government agencies that allowed roads to become unsafe
  • Physicians who commit medical malpractice
  • Health care workers at nursing homes and assisted living facilities who are abusive or neglectful toward patients
  • Anyone who engages in negligent or harmful behavior while caring for adults or children

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Families Who Lost a Loved One in a Car Accident

If you or someone you know lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, it is in your best interest to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. These cases can be complex, particularly when you are overcome by the untimely loss of a family member. Our dedicated legal team is on your side and will conduct a thorough investigation into the details of the accident and determine who is responsible for your tragic loss. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.