Statistics indicate more than 6 million car accidents take place in the United States alone, every year. Three million of these accidents result in srious physical injuries, with an average of 40,000 people dying from collisions every year, leaving families of the victims with anguish, also known as pain and suffering. Most of these accidents are caused by negligence. This is one reason why car accidents are one of one of the major types of incidents that result in a wrongful death verdict.
What is Wrongful Death?
By definition, wrongful death is a case that may be
filed by the relatives of the victim who has died due to wrongful conduct of another person. These acts could be result of negligence, such as reckless driving and drinking and driving, for wrongful death cases related to car accidents. It is also applicable to both intentional and non-intentional acts of negligence by the other party.
Wrongful death action is different from criminal charges that may also be imposed to the responsible party. It is a basis of a lawsuit filed against a party on behalf of the victim’s family. Some common elements of wrongful death compensation claims are highlighted below:
- ·The negligence of the other party has proven to be the cause of the death of the victim.
- ·The perpetrator is accountable for the death.
- ·The victim has left behind a dependents, beneficiaries, children or spouse.
- ·The victim’s dependents are suffering from financial issues resulting to the death of their loved one.
Wrongful Death Compensation
The settlement amount may vary from one state to another. Some states put caps on the amount of compensation that the dependents of the victim may receive, while other states do not. The compensation is given to children of the victim to cover for child support. If the victim has a spouse, he or she will be entitled to compensation to cover up to a lifetime of expected support and loss of companionship. In Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia for example the compensation for wrongful death on non-medical malpractice cases is $500,000, $575,000 and $800,000 respectively.
The computation of the compensation still requires consideration of the victim’s life’s expectancy, his or her working experience and potential future earnings. However, some argue that these variables should not be used when calculating the compensation factor because insurance companies use age as a variant to get the value of compensation as it discounts the value of human life.
Example of Wrongful Death Verdicts in the United States
Wrongful death verdicts don’t allows make the headlines, but when they do, the cases are usually unique or quite substantial.
In one case, two sisters rented a vehicle
from a rent-a-car company in California and went home to their mother. While driving the vehicle on Highway 101, it slammed into a southbound semi-truck and began bursting into flames killing the two passengers. It was later on determined that the vehicle the girls rented ended up losing its steering capability due to a fluid leak, which then resulted in the fire. The company pled guilty after five years and paid $15 million following the wrongful death verdict.
In this case the parents received the full amount compensation for their two daughters. But if the decedent has a spouse, he or she is to file and receive the wrongful death compensation. If the decent have minor children and have to parents left, the jury will distribute the money to ensure that all monetary needs of each of the children is taken care of until they reach the legal age of 18. If the decedent has a spouse and minor children, the spouse is to take full responsibility of the compensation until they reach the legal age.
Statute of Limitations
Each state has a certain limit on the time an individual has to file a wrongful death suit. The time varies from state to state and is referred to as the “statute of limitations”. That means if you don’t file a wrongful death claim in a certain amount of time, you may not be able to file one at all.
Working with an established wrongful death attorney can help you understand your case and the rights and compensation you may be entitled to.