If you have a loved one who lost their life in a crash caused by another person’s distracted driving, you might be considering a wrongful death lawsuit. Yet you may be on the fence about whether a lawsuit is worth pursuing.
Although money cannot bring someone back, it can be extremely helpful in compensating the surviving family members. It can pay for medical and funeral expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress.
This article provides information that will help you determine if you should pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. It will allow you to discern the best course of action to take going forward.
What Is Distracted Driving?
While distracted driving laws vary by state, they generally include a basic standard. This is some version of a driver doing something that takes their attention away from operating the vehicle. The causes of distracted driving can be:
- Visual (taking eyes off the road)
- Physical (taking hands off the wheel)
- Cognitive (the driver’s mind is distracted).
When people hear “distracted driving,” they generally think about someone using a cell phone while driving, including texting or talking on the phone. That is the most common cause of distracted driving crashes, but it is not the only reason someone can be found guilty of this infraction.
Currently, California law does not prohibit behaviors like eating while driving. However, some distracted driving laws allow a secondary citation if the officer believes the behavior contributed to the negligence. This also goes for adjusting vehicle system controls like the stereo and air conditioning.
Personal grooming is another cause of distracted driving. In addition, external diversions, such as construction projects or other accidents, can result in a citation. If a driver is distracted by other passengers or pets in the car, this could also result in a charge.
Note that distracted driving does not have to involve another vehicle. In fact, 1 in 5 individuals who die in such crashes are either pedestrians or riding a bicycle.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Qualifications
Auto accidents are the most common cause of wrongful death claims. These include impairment, such as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving, as well as distracted driving.
Wrongful death lawsuits involving distracted driving are typically handled in a court of law. The family of the deceased must prove that the death was directly caused by the negligence of the other driver.
This may seem straightforward, especially if the driver got a ticket and was found guilty of distracted driving. That can be a promising start to a wrongful death suit, but it is often not sufficient evidence by itself.
That is why it is important to build a strong case. For example, a good attorney will know how to subpoena the driver’s phone records. A time-stamped text message sent right before the crash, for instance, would be strong evidence that the driver was distracted and, therefore, responsible for the death.
Types of Lawsuit Damages
“Damages” refers to a sum of money that the law imposes on a person or entity that has violated someone else’s rights. There are two main types: compensatory and punitive damages.
Punitive damages are those meant to punish the wrongdoer. These are often awarded when the person or entity acted with egregious negligence that caused significant harm.
For instance, if there are minor problems with the motor or braking system that result in an accident, the court may punish the company through punitive damages.
As the name suggests, compensatory damages are meant to compensate the party that is harmed. You might also hear them referred to as “actual damages.” These require demonstrating injury that resulted in financial and/or emotional loss.
Common Damages in a Distracted Driving Wrongful Death Lawsuit
It is possible to seek punitive damages against a driver in a wrongful death lawsuit, but they are less common. These are sometimes called “exemplary damages.”
There are several common types of compensatory damages in a wrongful death suit. Here are a few of the most common ones.
Funerals are extremely expensive. You can seek compensatory damages for all fees associated with the funeral, including burial and memorial service costs.
Compensatory damages can be sought for medical bills and other healthcare services before death. This can include emergency response, hospitalization, rehabilitation, or other medical services or treatment.
Lost Employment Benefits
You can seek compensatory damages from lost wages or other employment benefits. These include the future earning potential that will not be actualized. This can include the cost of health insurance coverage for family members through the deceased’s employer that no longer exists.
Pain and Suffering
You can ask for compensatory damages for less tangible things like “pain and suffering” and emotional distress. This includes mental anguish caused by the loved one’s death.
You can seek damages for the loss of the relationship. This can include the lack of companionship, comfort, and counsel the deceased person would have offered to family members if they were still alive.
Let an Expert Help Determine Which Damages to Seek
The best way to determine what damages to which you are entitled is to speak with an expert. An attorney with extensive experience with wrongful death lawsuits will be able to assess from the outset what compensation you should receive and the best means to move forward with the case.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near You
Now that you understand the ins and outs of distracted driving and how it can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit, you can determine the best course of action. Remember that the most useful thing you can do is hire a qualified wrongful death attorney to represent your claim. Not only will they ensure the best possible outcome for your case, but they can advise you through every step of the process.
Greenleaf Law Group represents clients affected by various types of automotive collisions. We will help you navigate the entire wrongful death lawsuit process to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.