The unexpected death of a loved one is never easy to cope with. It can be particularly challenging when their life was taken by another party’s negligent actions. If you lost a close family member or friend in a fatal accident caused by distracted driving, you might have the right to hold the liable party accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Not only could the liable party face criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter or other offenses, but you may have the right to pursue a wrongful death action against them. With help from a wrongful death attorney, you can demand justice after a fatal distracted driving car accident.
Types of Distracted Driving
When many people hear the words “distracted driving,” they immediately think of cell phone use. However, distractions while driving can take multiple forms.
First, there are visual distractions. These are distractions that cause the driver to take their eyes off the road. Looking at another motor vehicle accident, down at their cell phone, or turning around to look at passengers in the backseat are a few examples.
Next, there are manual distractions. This causes the driver to take their hands off the wheel and their focus off driving. Some examples could include changing the music, reaching across the seat, eating, drinking, or attempting to clean the car while driving.
There are also cognitive distractions. These are some of the most dangerous, as they take the driver’s mind off their driving responsibilities. Daydreaming and arguing with passengers are just a couple of examples of cognitive distractions.
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What to Do After Losing a Loved One to Distracted Driving
If you lose a family member due to a fatal distracted driving accident, your family may be anxious to ensure the liable party is held accountable. Fortunately, there are multiple ways you can accomplish this goal and get justice for your loved one.
Filing a Distracted Driving Insurance Claim
First, you may have the right to file a claim with the liable party’s insurance provider. If the individual or entity who caused the distracted driving accident has insurance coverage, you can file a claim. You might be able to recover compensation for the value of the damaged vehicle, the decedent’s personal property damages, and other related expenses.
The insurance company can also be ordered to cover the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses and medical bills. However, insurance claims are limited by the highest amount of coverage purchased by the policyholder. If the policyholder only purchased the minimum amount of coverage under the law, it may not be enough to fully cover these costs.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
You may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim after a distracted driving accident if your lawyer can show that someone else is responsible for causing your loved one’s death. Wrongful death claims can be filed anytime one party is responsible for causing the death of another.
In filing a wrongful death claim, you seek compensation for the decedent’s losses and that of your surviving family. This differs from any punishment the defendant may face if the prosecutor decides to proceed with formal criminal charges. As such, the burden of proof in wrongful death claims is not beyond a reasonable doubt but based on a preponderance of the evidence.
Essential Considerations Surrounding Wrongful Death Claims
There are several rules and regulations regarding wrongful death claims you should be aware of if you hope to get justice for your family member.
Authority to File
First, you need to determine whether you have the authority to file the claim. According to Okla. Stat. tit. 12, §1053, only the decedent’s personal representative has the authority to file a wrongful death claim. This individual will be responsible for seeking compensation for not only the decedent but their beneficiaries as well.
If the decedent did not have a chance to appoint a personal representative in their estate plans, the court has the authority to do so. The civil court system can also appoint a new representative if the person named is unwilling or unable to do so.
Statute of Limitations
You must file your wrongful death claim within two years of the decedent’s death. You can expect the court system to refuse to hear your claim if you miss this deadline. This is known as the statute of limitations.
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Recoverable Damages in a Distracted Driving Wrongful Death Claim
The decedent’s estate and surviving family members are entitled to compensation in a distracted driving wrongful death claim.
The surviving family members are entitled to compensation for multiple economic and non-economic costs, such as:
- Any out-of-pocket expenses the parents or guardians paid
- Loss of the decedent’s love and support
- Loss of the decedent’s household or financial contribution, the emotional pain and distress surviving family members experienced due to their loss
- The surviving family member’s loss of consortium
The decedent’s estate can receive compensation for any damages the decedent sustained before their death. These might include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses
- Child support and education costs
- The decedent’s loss of income and diminished earning capacity
Oklahoma law allows punitive damages to be awarded when the court system finds it necessary and appropriate to punish the defendant for egregious behavior or poor conduct. Since distracted drivers are expected to know the risks of distracted driving, they may be more likely to be ordered to pay punitive damages when they cause wrongful death.
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Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney for Help Today
If you lost a treasured family member due to another party’s distracted driving, you must take action and ensure the at-fault party is brought to justice. While the court system will handle any criminal charges, you can seek compensation for your loss by working with a reputable wrongful death lawyer at BDIW Law.
If distracted driving cost your loved one their life, and you do not know where to turn for help, contact our team to explore your legal options further. You can reach us through our convenient contact form or phone to schedule your free consultation as soon as today.
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