Fatal Car Accidents and Wrongful Death Claims
In an instant, your world can change. The loss of a loved one in a tragic car accident can devastate a family. But the notion that the fatality was caused by someone else’s negligence or carelessness can make the loss even more tragic.
At Parnall Law, our compassionate attorneys are committed to helping families who have lost loved ones in auto accidents that could and should have been prevented. We work tirelessly to demand compensation to help ease the financial burdens these families are facing, and we shield victims from the insurance companies that may try to take advantage of them during their time of grief.
Schedule a free consultation with our wrongful death attorneys today to learn how our team can help you and your family after a fatal car accident.
What Options Do I Have If I Lost a Loved One in a Car Accident?
If you have lost a loved one in an auto accident due to someone else’s negligence or misconduct, our attorneys may be able to help you file a wrongful death lawsuit. Such a claim is generally filed by the personal representative of the victim’s estate, which could be:
- A surviving spouse
- An adult son or daughter
- An adult sibling
- Someone appointed by the court
Although the personal representative files the case and may receive a portion of the compensation (depending on their relationship to the deceased), the claim is filed for the benefit of surviving family members. That means the division of any compensation or award will be determined according to the priority of the relationship. For instance, if there is a surviving spouse but no children, all damages go to the spouse.
Our attorneys can help you determine who is eligible to file the claim, and we will explain how compensation resulting from a wrongful death lawsuit would be distributed to your loved one’s estate and then to family members.
Types of Compensation After a Fatal Auto Accident
Damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit are intended to compensate the estate or family members for expenses related to losing their loved one as well as loss of future income and other less quantifiable ways in which you may suffer. These are compensatory damages.
Some of the compensatory damages that may be available include:
- Loss of the decedent’s earning capacity
- Loss of parental services, child services, or spousal services
- Loss of advice and counsel
- Loss of companionship and society
- Loss of inheritance
- Mental anguish
- Expenses associated with therapy
Punitive damages may also be available in a wrongful death claim, such as in cases when the death is caused by a willful or intentional act or omission, or by gross negligence. The purpose of these punitive damages is not to recover compensation for a loss but to punish a wrongdoer and send a message about the behavior that led to the wrongful death.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim After a Fatal Car Accident?
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in New Mexico is three years. That means that you have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim, although some factors may pause the three-year clock.
It is important to know that even though you have three years to file a claim, you need to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible about your case. Building a strong case for maximum compensation will require an independent investigation and time to collect all the evidence. A skilled attorney will want to start working on your claim immediately.
Schedule a free consultation with our attorneys today to discuss your case.
Common Causes of Fatal Car Accidents
There are a number of factors that can cause fatal car accidents. The Auto Insurance Center combed through National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data on fatal car accidents from 2009 to 2013 looking for the most common causes. It found that in a majority of states, the most common cause of fatal car accidents was the failure of a motorist to stay in his or her lane. The next most common cause was failing to yield to right-of-way.
Some of the most common causes of fatal car accidents include:
- Careless or reckless driving
- Road rage
- Improper or erratic lane changing
- Failure to stay in the proper lane
- Failure to yield to right-of-way
- Failure to obey traffic signs and signals
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Drunk driving
- Distracted driving
- Bad weather
- Police pursuit
In New Mexico, the most common cause of fatal car accidents is a vehicle making an improper left turn. Fatal car accidents often have multiple causes, as well, such as driving drunk and failing to stay in the correct lane.
Fatal Car Accident Statistics
The average number of fatalities due to car crashes in the U.S. usually hovers around 30,000 annually. Preliminary numbers are showing a spike for 2016 — with an estimated 40,000 car accident fatalities. And many more than that were injured in 2016 — an estimated 4.6 million people.
The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that motor vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage cost about $432 billion in 2016, due to losses in wages, productivity, medical expenses, property damage, and employer costs.
Let Our Lawyers Help Your Family After a Fatal Car Accident
If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, we are here to help. Our lawyers are experienced and aggressive advocates who fight for the rights of families in their time of need. We can evaluate the facts of your case and discuss the legal options available to you. Call today to schedule your free initial consultation.