Can I sue if a family member is killed in a car accident?
If you have lost a loved one as a result of a car accident, you may be wondering how you could potentially hold the people who caused their death responsible for their actions. In all likelihood, you may think about filing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased family member–however, in order to have that suit heard in court and be eligible to recoup damages, you need to meet several requirements and be part of a certain group.
The experienced wrongful death attorneys at Combs Law Group can help you determine if you have a potential wrongful death claim, how to proceed with it, and how to get the best possible outcome for your claim. Call us today at (314) 900-HELP to speak with a lawyer for free regarding your situation.
How A Car Accident Becomes a Wrongful Death
Car accidents are among the leading types of wrongful death cases in the United States. However, even if a death occurs as a result of a car accident, not every car accident is a wrongful death case.
In order for the car accident to be seen as a wrongful death case and for you to have a legitimate case to sue, there must be a person who loses their life because of the negligent actions of another. In a car accident death, that is defined as if the other driver did something wrong: were they speeding, driving distracted, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, running a red light, etc.
A critical piece of a wrongful death suit is the idea that the defending party owed what is legally known as a duty of care to the victim. In a car accident death, this is a given. Whenever we get behind the wheel, it is our responsibility to drive safely and keep other motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and anyone else who uses the roads safe and secure.
When a driver acts recklessly or irresponsibly, they are breaching their duty to keep their fellow users of the road safe, As those actions put other people in danger, if someone dies as a result of their reckless acts, they can be held liable for their negligence.
Common Wrongful Death Car Accidents
Driver error is regarded as enough to prove negligence in a wrongful death car accident. Some of the most common negligent acts in fatal accidents are:
- Distracted driving
- Agressive driving
- Unauthorized driving (without a license, suspended, etc.)
- Driving while intoxicated
- Failure to obey traffic laws and signs
- Failure to yield
Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Missouri
Wrongful death lawsuits in Missouri are governed by a unique set of statutes. One to note in particular is the “class” requirement, which determines who can sue for wrongful death and when:
- Surviving spouses, children, parents, or grandchildren of the deceased get the first opportunity to file a wrongful death suit
- If no one from that class is able to bring a lawsuit, siblings or their descendents (i.e. the deceased’s nieces or nephews) can file
- If no one in either of those classes brings a lawsuit, courts can appoint what is known as a plaintiff ad litem to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Usually, this is another relative such as an aunt or uncle.
In Missouri, only one wrongful death suit can be filed for a specific death. Different family members cannot bring individual suits for one person’s death, even if multiple close family members have legitimate claims to damages that result from that wrongful death. However, more than one plaintiff can join in on a single suit, or a group can all hire separate attorneys and fairly divvy up damages from the case
The statute of limitations, or time limit, to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri is three years from the date of death, with no exceptions. Even so, the sooner you contact a lawyer after a wrongful death, the better: they can build a stronger case for you, gather more evidence, and help you get the best possible result.
Helping Those Who Have Lost Loved Ones
Losing a family member is a traumatic experience, but when they were killed as a result of someone else’s actions in a car accident, you could potentially gain a measure of compensation and justice by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver responsible. If you think that you may have a wrongful death claim, call a lawyer as soon as possible.
With a proven track record of getting optimal results for their clients, Combs Law Group is here to help those grieving the loss of a loved one get closure as well as fair compensation. Call us today at (314) 900-HELP or contact us online for a free consultation.