Sudden Wrongful Death
The death of a loved one is always difficult, but a sudden wrongful death auto collision or other motor vehicle accident can be particularly devastating.
A civil wrongful death claim when you’ve recently lost a family member in a car accident is one part of the overall process for holding a wrongdoer accountable. Our criminal law does not serve to fully punish such people. In fact, many, if not most deaths caused by use of a vehicle are merely misdemeanor manslaughter. That can change if there are other aggravating factors. But even the Idaho criminal statute acknowledges that a civil claim is part of the overall process. When the death arises from a DUI driver, that statute provides “any evidence of conviction . . . shall be admissible in any civil action for damages resulting from the occurrence.“
The Basics of Wrongful Death Cases
A wrongful death claim can be asserted by the legal “heirs” or the estate of the person who was killed. In Idaho, the claim can be brought or the case filed by either a legal heir or the “personal representative’ of the estate. There are laws in the probate code about who constitutes an heir. In Idaho, this includes the deceased person’s spouse, children, stepchildren, parents or any other blood relative that was wholly or partially dependent upon the deceased person. It can also include anyone defined as an heir to the estate under Idaho probate code.
The wrongful death claim can be brought if another driver’s negligence causes the death.
The Legal Parts of a Wrongful Death Claim
Damages A Claimant Is Allowed To Recover
Wrongful death lawsuits resulting from car accidents are civil cases. This means the issue in the case is limited to monetary damages incurred by the survivors. The idea is to provide compensation for the loss. When determining a dollar amount for the claim, there are several factors to consider. Some are economic losses and some are non-economic losses:
- Medical costs incurred prior to death
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of income from the deceased
- Loss of love, care, guidance and companionship for the surviving family members
Idaho does have a “cap” that limits the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded to compensate surviving relatives for the loss of a relationship with the deceased person. The cap is somewhat complex but as of the time of this post it is about $335,000.00.
The Things You Need To Prove In A Wrongful Death Case
To win a wrongful death lawsuit after an auto accident, you must prove that the defendant’s actions were a breach of duty. This means he violated his obligation to operate his automobile in a safe manner. This could be accomplished by presenting evidence of impairment or distracted driving, for example.
Once breach of duty has been established, you must prove that the defendant’s actions led to the death of the deceased person. This can be more more difficult if the accident involved several vehicles. Issues also arise when the deceased has other medical conditions that could arguably have led to the death.
Read our earlier discussion to learn more about wrongful death claims in Idaho.
Hiring an Attorney For Wrongful Death Auto Claim
If you believe another driver’s negligence caused the death of your loved one, seeking the assistance of a qualified attorney is a must. The attorneys at Hepworth Holzer are experienced in settling wrongful death claims involving drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. We have a team of attorneys that are dedicated to helping families receive the compensation they deserve. Please give us a call today at (208) 343-7510 a free case evaluation and review.