Car accidents can be difficult situations to recover from. Not only are injuries often severe, but you also have to deal with the high costs of medical bills and the costs to fix your vehicle. Unfortunately, car accidents can be a lot worse. Not everyone survives their car accident. When this happens, family members may file a lawsuit against the driver responsible for the accident. These wrongful death cases are tricky because they involve both damages suffered by the decedent and the suffering experienced by their family.
If a family member tragically passed away after a car accident, you have the option to file a lawsuit against the other driver, even if you were not involved in the accident whatsoever. the damages you can claim may depend on your relationship with the decedent, such as parent, spouse, or child. You can sue for the losses suffered by the decedent before they died, and you can sue for your own losses from losing your loved one. However, there may be some limits on what you can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Unfortunately, if you lost a loved one in a car accident, you are likely going through a very tough time. Not only are you dealing with the emotional fallout from the accident, but you probably have to settle the financial affairs of your loved one’s estate. Our Baltimore wrongful death lawyers may be able to help. Schedule a free legal consultation with our team at Rice, Murtha & Psoras. Call our offices today at (410) 694-7291.
Wrongful Death and Survival Claims for Car Accidents
After your loved one dies, you have the option to pursue a wrongful death or survival action. These legal actions may seem pretty similar. Both involve family members filing lawsuits for damages related to the decedent’s death. However, the types of damages that can be awarded under each action are a bit different.
A wrongful death lawsuit awards damages to the decedent’s estate, but for the benefit of the estate’s beneficiaries. For example, if a person’s spouse died in a car accident, the other spouse could file a wrongful death lawsuit for the decedent’s spouse’s estate. However, the wrongful death claim centers on the damages and losses of the family of the decedent.
For a wrongful death claim, damages would include the pain and suffering experienced by the family members left behind. the precise nature of the damage may depend on the relationship with the decedent. For example, a spouse could claim loss of companionship and loss of consortium. the decedent’s child could claim loss of financial support they would receive from their parent. Families may also include funeral expenses and outstanding medical bills related to the decedent’s accident.
A survival claim is different because it focuses on the damages the decedent could have sued for had they survived, not the family’s suffering. This is kind of like a personal injury lawsuit filed for someone who has passed away. If the decedent could have claimed these damages if they were alive, they can be claimed in a survival action. Any damages awards are paid to the decedent’s estate rather than surviving family.
If you recently lost a loved one in a car accident, you have several legal options to recover damages for your family and the estate of your loved one. Call our Baltimore car accident attorney today to get help.
Punitive Damages for Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Laws regarding punitive damages vary from state to state. While some states do not impose restrictions on punitive damages, other states place significant limits on punitive damages, and others bar them altogether. Whether you can obtain punitive damages for a wrongful death or survival claim will depend on the state in which you file your claim.
States that allow punitive damages often do so at the discretion of the court. A plaintiff can make pleadings for punitive damages, but even a victory in court does not guarantee a punitive damages award. it is not uncommon for courts to require some showing that the defendant’s behavior was especially heinous or that the defendant acted with malice. Punitive damages are rarely awarded in negligence cases because defendants usually did not act with any intention or malice.
Other states that permit punitive damages may impose a statutory cap. Without a limit, punitive damages can be very high, sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some states place caps on punitive damages. Under these laws, punitive damages awards can be no higher than a statutory limit. For example, if your state imposes a cap of $100,000 for punitive damages, you will not be awarded any more than that, no matter how bad the defendant’s behavior was.
Other states do not allow punitive damages in most cases, no matter what. However, some states make exceptions specifically for wrongful death cases. Even still, punitive damages require separate pleadings and are not guaranteed. Even in wrongful death cases, punitive damages are often awarded only in extreme situations. Wrongful death cases involving only negligence are unlikely to be awarded punitive damages. Consult with our car accident lawyers for more information on punitive damages in your case.
Limits on Recovery for Car Accident Wrongful Death Cases
When filing a wrongful death or survival claim, you may be limited to what kind of damages you can claim. Many of the damages in a wrongful death lawsuit depend on the relationship between the plaintiff and the decedent. For example, many plaintiffs claim a loss in financial support as part of their damages. However, if the decedent did not work and instead contributed to the relationship in other ways, a plaintiff might not be able to claim loss of financial support.
Similarly, in a survival action, the only damages that may be claimed are those that the decedent could have claimed themselves if they had survived. If the decedent died immediately at the scene of their car accident, this limits the damages their family could claim in a survival action. In most cases, an immediate death means only pain and suffering can be claimed as damages. However, if the decedent did not pass away until several weeks or months after the accident, more damages may occur, like lost wages or additional medical expenses. Speak to our Ocean City car accident lawyers for help determining what damages you may claim.
Call Our Car Accident Attorneys for Help Today
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, you might have several legal options to help cover your damages. Our car accident and wrongful death attorneys can help you file your claim and get the compensation you need. Contact the offices of Rice, Murtha & Psoras for a free legal consultation. Call us today at (410) 694-7291.