What Happens When Someone Dies in a Car Accident?

An Overview of Wrongful Death Claims

The death of a loved one is traumatic and can be even worse when you lose a loved one in the blink of an eye due to someone’s wrongdoing or carelessness. For example, car accidents happen unexpectedly and can be emotionally devastating when a crash takes your loved one(s). Contact the experienced car accident attorneys at MNH Injury Lawyers to get the legal help you deserve.

Despite Canada’s determined efforts to prevent car accident fatalities and make its roads safe throughout its provinces, fatal car accident deaths remain a serious public health concern. Initially, it may seem harmless and even normalized in today’s busy society to send a text and voice message while driving. It is well-documented that cell phone use while driving can lead to car crashes—a startling 1.6 million annual accidents, to be exact. However, we do not always imagine accidents to kill people.

The statistics and research is alarming on how hazardous and deadly texting while driving can be when it comes to the personal safety of others on the road. Specifically, distracted drivers sending or reading a text is equivalent to taking your eyes completely off the road for five entire seconds. This may seem minimal, but when you consider a vehicle driving at 90 kilometers per hour, then this is also as if you are driving the distance of a football field with your eyes closed for five seconds.

In the worst of circumstances, we can lose a loved one due to the negligence and carelessness of another behind the wheel, and in other cases, car occupants can sustain life-threatening injuries. If you have lost a loved one in a car accident because of another driver’s negligence, you may be wondering what legal options you and/or your family may pursue.

Wrongful Death Claims

As a family member who has lost a loved one in a fatal car accident due to the negligence of another, you may file a wrongful death claim against the other driver. A wrongful death arises when a person dies due to the neglect of another person.

As a family member of a victim of wrongful death, you can likely bring a claim against the other driver that caused your loved one’s death, either through negligence or because of some intentional action on their part. While no amount of money or action can bring your loved one back—a wrongful death claim against the other driver is a way you can hold them liable for their actions. Additionally, a wrongful death claim can help you and your family seek justice for your loss(es) resulting from the fatal accident.

If a victim dies because of a car accident injury caused by the negligence of another, you might have a wrongful death lawsuit worth pursuing. Speak to a wrongful death lawyer to share the specific facts and circumstances surrounding your case and learn more about how a wrongful death claim can help you and your family seek justice and financial compensation. You can get started by understanding key information about wrongful death claims outlined below.

Who Can Bring a Car Accident Wrongful Death Claim?

Canada has protections in place for family members following the death of a loved one in a fatal car accident to exercise their right to financial compensation. Generally, while there may be some variation according to your location or province—wrongful death lawsuits are typically brought by a representative of the deceased and often on behalf of surviving family members impacted by the loss.

Such family members can recover damages in a wrongful death claim provided they are qualifying family members and are filing a claim within the limitations period. A lawyer with experience in wrongful death claims can best guide you on whether you meet the criteria and your specific legal options.

For example, in Alberta, the Fatal Accidents Act (FAA) specifically provides certain family members of the deceased can benefit from a wrongful death claim, such as:

  • Spouses or interdependent adult partners
  • Parents
  • Children

An executor or administrator of the estate brings the claim, and the above family members can share the proceeds.

Additionally, the FAA outlines the ways it protects the deceased’s family members from financial hardship by allowing their claim to cover:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Mental health and emotional support
  • Support for loss of care and companionship

While this information is generally the same regardless of the region—it is always critically important to engage a knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer to ensure you know your rights under the law and that you are within the limitations period.

Causes of Fatal Car Accidents

Car accident deaths are not only tragic, but they are highly preventable. Often it is the negligent driver’s wrongdoing and carelessness that can cause others who innocently drive by to unnecessarily and senselessly lose their lives—causing immense pain and suffering to the deceased’s family members.

Preventable fatal car accidents commonly occur due to:

  • Drunk driving: reckless drivers may be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and even prescription medications which impair a driver’s ability to drive – the combination results in a disregard for the safety of innocent drivers sharing the road.
  • Distracted driving: a common example of distracted driving is texting while driving. A survey revealed that nearly 50 percent of Canadians admit that while driving, they have either typed out an entire message or used their cell phone’s voice-messaging system. Most concerning is that the combination of text or voice memo distractions with speeding can be especially deadly for the driver and/or others driving close by.
  • Erratic driving: driving erratically can be dangerous for the driver and others sharing the road. Examples of erratic driving include changing lanes swiftly, driving too close to other cars, weaving in and out of traffic, and driving at unpredictable speed levels.
  • Aggressive driving: driving aggressively, impatiently, and angrily on the road can cause serious and life-threatening injuries and even death to the driver and surrounding innocent victims.
  • Inexperienced driving: new drivers may make fatal errors out of fear, panic, or simply inexperience.
  • Driving too fast in unsafe conditions: speeding when the conditions of the roads are dangerous, such as in icy or rainy weather, can pose a danger, and in the worst of cases, the accident results in fatalities.

The reasons outlined above combined with a lack of safety precautions, such as wearing a seatbelt, can be especially deadly. The Transport Canada’s National Collision Database (NCDB) reports a higher percentage than years before of car occupants killed while failing to wear a seatbelt. For example, according to the NCDB, over two recent years, driver fatalities not wearing seatbelts increased by thirty-two percent. However, not wearing a seatbelt is no excuse for other drivers to be negligent, and they should still be liable for causing a fatal accident.

Why Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?

While nothing can return a loved one, you and/or your family may be suffering specific losses that make it even more challenging to heal and grieve.

You might bring a wrongful death action because:

  • The wrongdoer should be accountable for their actions under the law
  • You and/or your family members felt a significant impact from your loved one’s death
  • You and your family have experienced a significant loss of emotional support, companionship, and financial support.
  • It is the right and proper thing to do
  • The at-fault driver has insurance protection to compensate your family 

Money cannot reunite your family, but it can help with your future financial stress and give you a sense of justice.

The Value of a Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you lost a loved one in a tragic car accident, you are likely consumed with tending to the emotional needs of yourself and your family. Seeking help from a lawyer with extensive experience with car accident death cases is critical to have by your side during this challenging time.

While you focus on healing and grieving and supporting your family, a sympathetic lawyer that understands what you are experiencing can help you and your family:

  • Understand your legal options
  • Help you navigate through the process of filing a claim
  • Negotiate and advocate on your behalf so that you and your family have the financial and legal support you need

Limitation Period for Wrongful Death Claims

A limitation period restricts the amount of time you must bring a lawsuit against another party. An experienced car accident lawyer who knows Canada’s wrongful death laws will understand the specific rules and laws around starting a wrongful death claim, including your legal options if you are outside of the limitations period.

Generally, a two-year statute of limitations applies. In Alberta, the executor or administrator must file a fatal accident claim within two years from the date of death, and failing to meet this deadline will bar the claim and recovery for the surviving family members.

No matter where you live, be sure to consult with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible after losing their loved one. This ensures that you do not lose the right to seek justice and the compensation that you deserve

  • Timeliness: There may be additional deadlines to adhere to, and an experienced lawyer will be aware of what to anticipate and prepare you, so that missed deadlines do not impact your claim.
  • Time to grieve: In the challenging circumstances surrounding the death of your loved one, you are likely in the process of grieving and recovering with your family. It asks a lot of you to take legal action without a lawyer. It will overwhelm you to navigate a complex legal process on your own and without experienced help. While you and your family focus on getting the emotional support and comfort you need, an experienced car accident wrongful death lawyer can help you take a load off of your shoulders.
  • Evidence: The earlier you bring a lawyer into the picture, the more efficient it will be to collect critical information and evidence that you may forget with time. For example, statements, descriptions, and photos can make memories easier to access and recall. A skilled lawyer will gather this evidence and analyze it to assess how it can best support your case.

Lawyer Contingency Fees

Before signing an agreement with your lawyer, be sure to ask and understand how they structure and charge their fees. For example, many lawyers charge a “contingency fee,” which covers the cost of their legal services and representation until they win your case. It is important to note under this arrangement, you will only be responsible for fees if you receive a successful outcome in your favor. This means you will not have to worry about how to afford a lawyer.

The Value of Grief Support

Michael Hoosein
Car Accident Lawyer, Michael Hoosein

Most importantly, if you have senselessly lost a loved one in a car accident because of another person’s negligent actions, get the support that you and your family need to get through this devastating loss. For example, following the death of a loved one killed in a car accident, you may be experiencing a loss of companionship, love, support, and guidance, as well as emotional distress daily. Recovery requires time, comfort, and understanding from your support system of family, friends, and professionals that specialize in grief support.

Some coping resources that you and your family may find helpful may include:

  • Grief support programs including support set up by your lawyer 
  • Accident benefits under your loved one’s auto insurance plan
  • Seeking the comfort and ongoing support of loved ones
  • Reaching out to hotlines dedicated to family members of the deceased

You may feel overwhelmed and in a sensitive and emotional state at this time. Seeking additional support for your loss can help take a load off your shoulders while you focus on grieving. Getting the right support at this time is a step in the right direction so that you and your family can overcome this difficult time.

Contact a car accident lawyer to get the legal help you and your family deserve.

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