According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PDoT), there were 115,938 reported crashes on Pennsylvania roads in 2022, resulting in 1,179 fatalities.
The aftermath of a car accident can be traumatic and devastating, regardless of how serious a crash it is. And when someone dies during an accident or due to their injuries suffered because of it, the situation often becomes much more difficult and confusing.
This is where our compassionate team at Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco can help you. We have decades of experience handling cases just like yours and can guide you through the process of dealing with the sudden loss of your loved one.
Continue reading to learn more about what can happen after a fatal car accident.
What You Should Do After a Fatal Crash
If you’re involved in a car accident, it can be disorienting, and you may end up suffering injuries. And, if someone dies because of the accident, that can add another level of trauma. As with any vehicle crash, when you’re involved in a fatal accident, you should try to do the following:
- Get to safety
- Seek medical attention
- File a police report
- Gather evidence and witness statements
- Contact a car accident attorney
Filing a police report and gathering evidence is essential in a case involving a traffic fatality. Hiring an attorney from Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco will ensure the necessary documents are presented in a timely manner to hold the at-fault party accountable.
Filing a Wrongful Death Suit
So, what happens if your loved one dies in a car wreck, either at the scene or sometime after, due to injuries suffered in the accident?
If you believe that someone else’s negligence (such as another driver) caused the death of your loved one, you may have grounds to pursue legal action in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit.
Every state has different laws regarding who can file a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased.
In Pennsylvania, once a person dies, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate must file the wrongful death claim on behalf of the beneficiaries of the estate. Additionally, if the personal representative doesn’t file within six months of the date of death, any of the beneficiaries may file, and one single beneficiary may file on behalf of all the others.
How To Prove Negligence
Pennsylvania, like most other states, has basic requirements for proving negligence in a car crash claim, which your lawyer can assist you with. These requirements are:
- Duty of care: Proving that the at-fault driver had a duty of care to other drivers and passengers on the road as well as the passengers in their own vehicle
- Breach of duty: Proving that the at-fault driver breached or violated this duty in some way
- Causation: Proving that the breach of duty caused the accident and your loved one’s death
- Damages: Show proof of the damages that were caused due to the breach of duty
If all of these requirements are met, your lawyer can pursue a negligence or wrongful death claim.
Deadline for Your Claim
The typical deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date the victim died.
It’s vital to your case that you gather all the necessary paperwork and evidence and file the initial claim before that deadline, or you may not be able to receive any compensation for the death of your loved one.
Hiring a qualified wrongful death lawyer will help ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible so that you can find some peace in the aftermath of this tragedy.
What If the At-Fault Driver Dies?
If the crash that kills your loved one also results in the death of the at-fault driver, you still have options for pursuing a lawsuit.
You may think that since the liable party is deceased, there’s nothing you can legally do; however, with the help of your lawyer, you can pursue a case against the at-fault driver’s family or estate.
Often, you’ll have to wait for the responsible party’s estate to go through probate, which can sometimes take a while and add unnecessary delays to your case. After the probate process, the representative or lawyer from their estate may attempt to settle out of court or make a settlement payment to you.
Our firm recommends seeing the lawsuit through to the end and letting the courts decide the appropriate settlement to ensure that you get the proper justice for your loved one.
Criminal Charges May Be Filed
According to Pennsylvania law, any driver who recklessly or with gross negligence causes the death of another person can be charged with homicide-by-vehicle or vehicular manslaughter. There are usually two scenarios where the at-fault driver may be criminally charged:
- Moving violations: Speeding, violating traffic rules, distracted driving, reckless driving, road rage, fatigued driving, etc.
- Driving under the influence (DUI): Any at-fault driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher or who is under the influence of drugs faces a DUI conviction.
If something outside of the at-fault driver’s control was the cause of the accident and subsequent fatality, the driver may not be charged with a criminal offense.
This could include adverse weather, poor road conditions, or unexpected mechanical failure.
However, even if criminal charges don’t apply to your case, your attorney will still help you in pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Expected Compensation for Your Loved One’s Death
While we understand that no amount of money can bring your loved one back to you, it’s important to know what compensation you may receive in a settlement. The beneficiaries (spouse, children, siblings, or parents) of a deceased individual may receive a life insurance payout if an active policy was in place but may also receive compensation for the following:
- Medical and funeral expenses
- Loss of parental protector/guardian
- Loss of companion
- Loss of household services
- Loss of breadwinner
- Pain and suffering (including grief and compromised quality of life)
- Expenses for decedent’s estate
While all of these will be considered when determining a settlement, the final amount a beneficiary may receive will depend, in part, on the financial resources of the person or estate of the person who caused your family member’s untimely death.
Your lawyer will do their due diligence to ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation allowed to you.
We’re Here To Help
Losing a loved one is devastating, and pursuing legal action against those responsible can be complicated.
That’s why our team of lawyers at Shrager, Sachs & Blanco is here for you.
We have decades of experience handling cases just like yours in Philadelphia and all across Pennsylvania, and we want to take care of the details of your case, allowing you and your family to grieve and heal during this difficult time.
Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case.