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What are Fatal Car Accident Lawsuits?

While many car accidents do not result in a fatality, some can result in the death of the driver and/or passengers involved. From seemingly minor accidents to a passenger car crushed underside a truck, every car accident has the potential to be fatal.

The family of a victim who dies in a fatal car accident may have the right to sue on the deceased’s behalf for damages as a plaintiff. Under personal injury law, the family may have different legal theories they can use to file a claim. Which theory the family sues under depends on the facts and who caused the accident.

Fatal accidents can also occur when certain factors are present, such as bad weather, difficult driving conditions, poor lighting, and instances of driving under the influence (DUI).

When Can I Sue for Negligence for a Fatal Car Accident?.

One legal theory that is frequently applied in fatal car accident lawsuits is that of negligence. Negligence is the failure to use care an ordinary individual would in the same and/or similar circumstances. A family member can sometimes sue under the negligence theory when the driver causes injuries or death of another driver, a passenger, or pedestrian.

To prove the defendant liable for negligence in the accident, a plaintiff has to show:

  • The defendant owed the victim a duty to not harm them.
  • The defendant breached that duty when they caused the accident.
  • The defendant caused the accident.
    • The defendant must be the actual and proximate cause of the accident.
  • The defendant’s actions led to the victim’s death.

An example of this is where the driver of the other vehicle breaches their duty to follow road rules and not drive while drunk. If they are found to be drunk driving, and their impairment causes a fatal car accident, they might be held liable.

What If the Vehicle Itself Caused the Accident?

In some fatal accidents, the driver was not primarily liable for causing the accident, but the vehicle itself was due to a defect present in the vehicle at the time of the accident. This is another legal theory called products liability. Under this legal concept, the manufacturer can be sued by the family if there was a:

  • Design defect (for instance, if the car’s brakes were designed poorly, leading to an accident)
  • Manufacturing defect (for instance, if the engine is assembled incorrectly, resulting in an explosion)
  • Warning defect (for example, if sufficient safety instructions are provided with the car)

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

wrongful death lawsuit is filed a family on behalf of a family member who died. The family files the lawsuit against the individual who allegedly caused the death to compensate them for the death of the individual. Only the victim’s immediate family can sue on behalf of the victim at the center of the lawsuit.

In the case of a fatal car accident, it would be the survivors of the car crash victims who would file on behalf of them. Some fatal car accidents can involve the death of several different parties and passengers. Thus, the wrongful death lawsuits may involve some complex legal determinations.

Calculation of damages in a fatal car accident will depend on many different elements, including the liability of the other parties, state law restrictions on damages, and other factors. 

Should I Consult a Lawyer about the Fatal Car Accident?

If your loved one died in a fatal car accident or you are being sued for the crash, contact a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will guide you through the legal process to settle or present your case at trial.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 05-29-2018 12:20 AM PDT

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