What Happens After a Fatal Car Accident

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there were a total of 33,64 fatal auto accidents in 2018, resulting in 36,560 deaths. In New York, specifically, there were 889 fatal crashes and 943 deaths. Losing a loved one in a fatal car accident is a devastating experience, and dealing with legal issues, insurance companies, and hospital bills is the last thing surviving family members want to deal with.

Although hiring a Bronx car accident lawyer can seem daunting in the midst of such a difficult situation, this is precisely why it is so important to do; your lawyer can handle all of the paperwork, insurers, legal issues, and negotiations for you.

Furthermore, if another’s negligence contributed to your loved one’s death, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering. You may even be able to file a wrongful death or survivorship claim. Compensation can’t bring back your loved one, but it can provide the time and space you need to heal.

At the The Law Offices of Evan W. Kohn, we have been protecting the rights of accident and injury victims in and around the Bronx for over three decades. Our highly-skilled and experienced legal team has an impressive track record of obtaining substantial settlements for our clients in a timely manner.

If a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a car accident, contact the The Law Offices of Evan W. Kohn today at 718-409-5500  for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

What to do After a Fatal Car Accident in The Bronx

Even non-fatal car accidents can be traumatic for those involved. When someone dies in a collision, or shortly thereafter, the after effects can be particularly devastating. If you are involved in a fatal auto accident, step one is to call 9-1-1.

If you are at the scene of the accident where a person is seriously injured or killed, it is a good idea to collect as much evidence about the incident as possible. If a loved one dies as a result of the accident, you may decide to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. Death may be instant, or it may occur days, weeks, or even months later. If an eventual death is linked to the accident, those responsible can still be held liable for damages. And in any accident involving a fatality, those damages can be extensive.

But determining who is liable for your loved one’s death and proving that their negligent or reckless actions directly caused or contributed to the death of your loved one is often a complex and challenging process. If you wish to file a wrongful death claim, it is in your best interest to work with a NY wrongful death attorney.

What Happens When Someone Dies In a Car Accident in New York City

Your attorney will thoroughly analyze your case to determine liability, deal with insurance companies, gather evidence to substantiate your claim, and negotiate for the largest possible settlement. Extensive knowledge of personal injury law, motor vehicle accidents, and wrongful death lawsuits is essential to a favorable outcome.

Your lawyer will closely examine driving behaviors that may have contributed to the accident (high speeds, intoxication, aggressive driving), information about involved parties (including driving history), violations of traffic laws that contributed to the incident, and other variables to determine fault and position you for the most favorable outcome possible.

When a spouse or other dependents of the deceased need help to pay medical expenses, lost wages, and costs associated with the loved one’s funeral and burial, they may choose to file a wrongful death claim. At the The Law Offices of Evan W. Kohn, our goal is always to avoid litigation, but if we must go to court, we are prepared to work tirelessly, seeking justice for your loved one and helping you obtain the compensation you need and deserve.

Criminal Charges

In fatal car accidents, it is not uncommon for criminal charges to accompany civil charges. If a driver was drunk, speeding, and driving recklessly, he/she may be charged with vehicular manslaughter. These charges will be completely separate from the civil suit, which is intended to provide compensation to loved ones.

Criminal charges will either lead to a conviction or a verdict that the party being charged is not guilty. A conviction will not lead to more compensation, but it will result in the responsible party being punished for his/her actions with jail time, fines, license suspension, and/or probation.

Driving Behavior That Can Lead to a Fatal Car Accident

Although fatal car accidents can occur for myriad reasons, they are often related to driver negligence. Some of the most common causes of fatal car accidents include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Fatigued driving
  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Reckless driving
  • Adverse weather conditions
  • Defects on the roadway
  • Construction areas
  • Novice drivers
  • Elderly drivers
  • Defective or faulty vehicle parts

If a loved one has been killed in a car accident, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced attorney to determine your rights and options. As discussed above, if another’s negligence contributed to the fatal accident, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party.

Wrongful Death Car Accident Claims in New York

In New York, filing a wrongful death claim can be a complex, and highly-emotional process. But it can also result in substantial compensation; this can help you get back on your feet and resume some sense of normalcy following the death of a loved one.

There is only one person who can file an initial wrongful death claim in NY, and this person is known as the personal representative.

“The personal representative, duly appointed in this state or any other jurisdiction, of a decedent who is survived by distributees may maintain an action to recover damages for a wrongful act, neglect or default which caused the decedent’s death against a person who would have been liable to the decedent by reason of such wrongful conduct if death had not ensued. . . .”

~From Section 5-4.1 of the Estates, Powers & Trusts section of the Consolidated Laws of New York.

As stated above, a NY wrongful death claim must be filed by a personal representative of the victim. A personal representative is an individual named in the decedent’s will, or appointed by the court if the decedent had no will or estate plan at the time of death. Generally speaking, this individual is a spouse or an adult child. However, exceptions do apply in some cases. A NY wrongful death attorney can help you determine how to proceed.

Who Can Receive Compensation in a NY Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Although the personal representative is the only person who can file the initial claim, he/she is not the only person entitled to receive compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative files the claim, seeking compensation to be distributed to the victim’s beneficiaries. In most cases, the personal representative is also named as a beneficiary.

These beneficiaries are known as distributees for the purpose of the wrongful death claim, and they are not necessarily comprised of any or all beneficiaries named in the estate plan, although there is generally at least some overlap. Rather, the distributees are named specifically in the Estates, Powers & Trusts section in the Consolidated Laws of New York. Although some exceptions do exist, the individuals generally eligible to receive compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents

That being said, siblings and grandparents are only eligible in certain cases. If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, it is in your best interest to consult with a Bronx wrongful death lawyer immediately.

Grounds for a NY Wrongful Death Claim

In order for a wrongful death lawsuit to be valid, certain factors must be present. In New York, these are:

  • A person died;
  • The wrongful conduct or negligent actions of another caused this death;
  • Had the victim survived, he/she may have been able to recover damages in a lawsuit for the wrongful conduct or negligent actions; and
  • Survivors of the victim have suffered damages as a result of the death.

In the state of New York, there is a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims. This means that you have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a lawsuit, or you will likely forfeit your ability to do so.

Compensation for Wrongful Death After a Car Accident

If you have suffered losses due to the death of a loved one in a fatal car accident, you may be entitled to recover compensation for those damages. Some of the most common damages in a NY wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of the victim’s support
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Emotional pain and suffering

Filing a Claim for Survivorship

Where compensation in a wrongful death case is based on the economic losses of the victim’s loved ones, survivorship damages are based on the victim’s own pain and suffering prior to death.

The statute of limitations on a survivorship claim is also a bit different—three years from the date of the incident that caused the victim’s death or one year from the victim’s death, whichever period is longer.

Survivorship claims require evidence of the victim’s pre-death pain and suffering. To show this, there must be evidence of “cognitive awareness” following the occurrence.

In layman’s terms, if the victim was conscious for a period of time after the incident, a survivorship claim may be valid. This consciousness can be proven by the decedent’s actions after the incident, for example, if the victim was in visible pain, but it can also be confirmed through medical expert testimony stating that the injuries did not result in instant death.

On the flip side, testimony that the victim became immediately unconscious and remained in that state, or that death was instantaneous, may result in a dismissal of any claim for survivorship.

As with all cases involving fatal accidents, it is in your best interest to obtain immediate legal counsel from an attorney experienced in car accidents and wrongful death if you wish to file a claim for wrongful death or survivorship.

Contact the The Law Offices of Evan W. Kohn Today

If a loved one has been killed in a car accident due to another’s negligent or reckless behavior, you may be able to obtain compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional pain and suffering.

Although money cannot begin to make up for the loss of a loved one, it may give you the time and space to heal and return to some semblance of normalcy.

At the The Law Offices of Evan W. Kohn, our skilled, compassionate personal injury team has helped countless clients obtain the compensation and justice they deserve following even the most devastating injury accidents.

We understand the highly-sensitive nature of cases involving the death of a loved one, and we will remain by your side throughout the entire process. Contact the The Law Offices of Evan W. Kohn today at 718-409-5500 for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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