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Wrongful Death in Car Accidents: Knowing Your Legal Options

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2018 | Auto Accidents, Wrongful Death


When you lose a loved on in an auto accident, the pain can be immense. A senseless act by another driver can mean the difference between life and death. Surviving loved ones in the Bartow, FL area can count on the attorneys at Saunders Law Firm to offer expert counsel.

We would like to consider some of the basics about pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit after a fatal motor vehicle crash. This should give you some idea of what to expect while seeking justice for your family.

Fatal Auto Accident Statistics

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37,461 people were killed in auto accidents in 2016. Those grim numbers are up from the previous two years: 35,485 auto accident fatalities in 2015 and 32,744 in 2014.

Looking at fatal accident statistics from 2014, the NHTSA came up with the following observations:

  • 32 percent of traffic fatalities involved drunk driving
  • 32 percent of traffic fatalities involved speeding
  • 16 percent of traffic fatalities involved driver distractions
  • 11 percent of traffic fatalities involved bad weather

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is filed when a loved one dies as a result of another person or party’s negligence. These lawsuits can be filed against medical professionals for fatal surgical mistakes, for instance. In the case of auto accidents, wrongful death lawsuits are intended to hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions that led to the death of a loved one.

Examples of Negligence

For examples of negligence fatal auto collisions, let’s use examples using some of the statistics we noted above.

  • Drunk Driving – Driving under the influence is illegal and dangerous. If an intoxicated driver caused a fatal collision with a loved one, that driver needs to be held accountable for their poor judgement.
  • Speeding – Driving beyond the speed limit could result in fatal crashes. If a person is driving faster than the posted speed limit and causes a fatal collision, he/she needs to be held accountable.
  • Driver Distraction – Texting while driving is dangerous and ill-advised. If a person texts behind the wheel and causes a fatal collision due to their distracted driving, they should be held liable for the heartache they’ve caused.
  • Bad Weather – While bad weather is no one’s fault, reckless driving in bad weather can lead to fatal accidents. This might involve speeding in the rain or other reckless behaviors while behind the wheel.

Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

There are two kinds of damages that may be sought in a wrongful death lawsuit: compensatory damages and punitive damages.

  • Compensatory Damages – Compensatory damages are intended to cover financial and material losses that have occurred due to the death of a loved one. This might include funerary costs, emergency medical attention, damage to the vehicle, lost future earnings, emotional pain and suffering, and so forth.
  • Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are intended solely to punish the negligent party that caused the fatal accident to occur. The amount awarded in punitive damages can vary, though they generally depend on the nature of the accident and the egregiousness of the incident.


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