Every day more than 10 people lose their lives as a result of a fatal car accident in Florida.
If your loved one has been involved in a fatal car accident, knowing what to do in the days after is very important. We want to help you through this difficult time. The information provided in this blog is intended to help you understand what you should do after a fatal car accident.
Notify the Insurance Company
The first step to recovering compensation after a fatal car accident is to notify the at-fault driver’s insurance company of your claim. Any other parties involved will also need to be notified, such as the at-fault driver’s employer, if the driver was working at the time of the accident. This will establish the requirement that evidence pertaining to the driver must be preserved. If you do not feel comfortable doing this on your own, then a lawyer can help.
You should expect the insurance company to contact anyone involved in the accident or witnessed the accident. You should refer the insurance company’s representative to your attorney if they have any questions, and refrain from making any statement or answering any questions without your attorney. You are not required to answer any questions just because they reached out to you. And while it may seem harmless, quicker, or simpler to answer their questions on your own, it could severely impact your ability to recover the compensation you are entitled to receive.
Seek Legal Counsel
If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, having a trusted, knowledgeable attorney guide you and fight for your family’s rights, is invaluable. You should speak to one as soon as you can. If nothing else, the attorney can help you avoid any mistakes.
Paying the Bills
After the loss of a loved one, it can feel like a part of your world has ended. However, life around us continues. And part of that is the need to pay bills – including the bills for medical treatment prior to the death. Your attorney should be able to provide assistance with handling these bills. They could be paid by health insurance benefits, term life benefits, or the deceased’s Personal Injury Protection coverage. Depending on the insurance policies the deceased had, those benefits can also help pay for funeral and burial expenses. Your attorney can also reach agreements with medical providers to wait for payment until a settlement is reached, or a court verdict is received. In most situations, hospitals will agree to a lien on any future settlement or award. This takes a tremendous burden off surviving family members trying to pay for expensive medical costs out of pocket.
Persons Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Florida Statutes § 768.20 states that the personal representative of the estate of the deceased person is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If the deceased identified someone to act as the personal representative of their estate in their will, that person then has the authority to seek damages on behalf of the survivors and the estate.
If a representative was not chosen by the deceased, then the probate court will appoint one, usually from the applications the court receives from those who wish to perform those duties. In Florida, the personal representative must be either a Florida resident; or a spouse, sibling, parent, child or other close relative of the decedent. A non-resident of Florida who is not closely related to the decedent cannot become personal representative. Also, anyone with a felony conviction cannot serve as a personal representative over an estate in Florida.
Who Can Sue?
A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by a representative of the decedent who has suffered as a result of the death. This representative is usually a family member or spouse. Examples of the relationship and what could be claimed:
- Spouse – for emotional and mental suffering, loss of consortium, and financial support
- child – for the loss of a parent, and their guidance and security
- parents of a deceased child – for mental pain and emotional suffering
Relatives may also be entitled to compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost income
- Lost future inheritance
- Loss of household services
How Does an Estate Work?
In order to pursue a claim, an estate must be opened in the county where the person lived at the time of the death. Once the estate is opened and the letters of administration are given to the personal representative (PR), then the PR has authority to do whatever is necessary to pursue the claim. The PR can accept settlement money from the insurance company or authorize a wrongful death lawyer to file a lawsuit.
Our office is unique in that we have a probate department with four lawyers who can assist us in setting up the estate.
Collecting and Preserving Evidence of Damages
Once a loved one has passed, it is often challenging piecing together the exact amount of the financial losses. While medical bills and funeral expenses are easier to preserve? How do you show loss of income or loss of investments? We advise our clients to begin the process of analyzing all of the financial information available. This means that we need tax returns, statements of all accounts that the person owned, and all sources of income. It is only with this complete financial picture that we are able to calculate the true amount of the losses.
Fatal Car Accident Investigation
Collecting information as soon as possible is important in order to ensure that any necessary reconstruction or forensic evidence presented in any future claim is as accurate and thorough as possible. The car accident investigators examine all the factors that could have caused or contributed to cause the accident. This part of the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, or even longer, depending on the complexity of the case.
Should I Hire an Independent Investigator?
Law enforcement will certainly complete an investigation of the crash. However, your attorney may recommend hiring an independent investigator if the results of the police investigation are questionable.
An accident reconstructionist will look at numerous factors in their analysis in order to draw conclusions about the events of the fatal accident, such as:
- What types of vehicles were involved in the crash, including their size, weight, and other physical factors
- Where and how vehicles were damaged
- What drivers were doing leading up to the crash
- Were the brakes applied or did the driver accelerate
- Were seatbelts worn by the drivers and passengers
- What speeds and directions the vehicles were traveling
- How the roads are constructed in the area of the crash
- What the weather was like at the time of the crash
- What injuries the victims experienced
If there are no survivors and no eyewitnesses, physical evidence is especially crucial to demonstrating what happened and potentially proving a wrongful death claim.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today
If your loved one has died in a fatal car accident, you should take the appropriate steps to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact a trusted, respectable wrongful death attorney today.
When considering whether you should hire an attorney, know that we:
- have the resources to collect evidence that is necessary to win the case.
- will minimize your stress and worry about legal matters, giving you the time and ability to focus on taking care of your family and mourning the loss of your loved one.
- will answer your questions about the civil judicial process and procedural requirements.
- will maximize the amount of the recovery.
Our team of wrongful death attorneys have dedicated their careers to helping families who have had a loved one killed in an accident. We never charge a fee unless we win. Call us today so that we may answer your questions about how we can help.