A fatal auto accident is devastating. Worse yet is when there are no survivors. Family members of all victims grieve. They also must deal with the financial or economic costs of the fatal accident. There are possibly medical bills. There could be property damage. The decedents may have had a partner or children or other relatives dependent on them financially (as well as emotionally). When there are no survivors of a vehicle accident in California, what happens? Are family members or beneficiaries able to file a wrongful death lawsuit? If applicable, can the decedents’ estates — if the decedents lived long enough — file a survivorship claim?
The answers to these questions are discussed below but know this: after an auto accident with no survivors, the at-fault party’s estate is responsible for any economic or non-economic damages.
First: Surviving Family Members Are Informed of the Death
You never want to get that phone call or knock on the door, but it happens: your loved one was in an accident. It may be that the call is to confirm that your loved one has died, but it could also be a call to inform you that your loved one is in critical condition at the hospital. It isn’t until later that you are informed or otherwise learn, while at the hospital or elsewhere, that your loved one has died of the injuries sustained in the car accident.
Your grief is compounded by financial woes.
Then, to top it off, you learn there were no survivors of the accident. This can be confusing and alarming. There is no one to blame. There is no one to attack. There is no one to pay for the emotional and financial losses you have incurred.
Fortunately, your worries are unwarranted if your loved one did not cause the accident. Indeed, you can sue the other party’s estate, meaning his or her auto insurance, for compensation for all of your economic and non-economic damages with few exceptions.
Second: An Investigation Ensues to Determine Fault
Before you sue, you need to establish the facts of what exactly transpired. There is likely a police report, possible eyewitnesses, and possible video or pictures that can all help to understand better how the accident happened. You may even hire an expert to develop an accident reconstruction report. This report will detail the most likely way the accident occurred, incorporating all the evidence, technical data, and scientific data.
Based on the findings of the investigation that you or your attorney conduct, you will have a solid understanding of what happened and whether you are entitled to sue for wrongful death as a qualifying family member or as a representative of the decedent’s estate.
Third: A Lawsuit is Filed with the At-Fault Party’s Estate
Once you know you have a cause of action, you can pursue it via your attorney. From the police report or other collected evidence, you know the identity of the at-fault party and his or her auto insurer. Your attorney will draft a thorough complaint outlining all the evidence, the legal analysis, and the demand for compensation. The complaint will be filed in the proper court and the same will be served to the defendant.
Depending again on the facts and circumstances — e.g., the insurance coverage does not cover all of your damages — you may also file a lawsuit against the estate specifically and not just the insurer. This would only be viable if the at-fault party’s estate has the assets to cover the expenses you incurred.
Contact an Experienced Accident Attorney Newport Beach CA
There are no words of comfort when a car accident is fatal. But there is the reassurance that is your loved one dies as a result of the accident, you have options to get the compensation you and your family deserves, even when the at-fault party also died in the accident. If these circumstances apply to you, you should contact a resourceful, knowledgeable car accident attorney in Newport Beach as soon as possible.
Contact personal injury law offices near Newport Beach CA today. Will will review your case with you and outline your options.