After someone you love dies in a car accident, your legal rights are likely the farthest thing from your mind. Most of your mental and emotional energy will likely go toward getting through the stress of arranging a funeral and learning how to live without someone you love.
However, it is important for you and for any other members of your family that you do spend some time exploring your legal rights under Louisiana law. Your loved one would surely not want your family to suffer as a result of their passing. More importantly, you and anyone else in your family can likely achieve closure if the courts award you some kind of justice.
Wrongful death lawsuits for car crashes caused by another driver are a form of justice that can help your family move on emotionally and financially after a deadly collision.
When can family members file a wrongful death suit?
It's important to understand that not every death is a wrongful death. Even if the other party is responsible for the crash, it may not qualify as a wrongful death. Under Louisiana law, the other driver had to have either been negligent or doing something illegal or wrongful.
Examples of a wrongful death would be someone who passes away after a collision caused by a reckless driver going significantly over the speed limit. Drunk drivers and distracted drivers can also find themselves facing wrongful death lawsuits. It is important to know that the conditions of your loss are not the only consideration.
There is also a limit to how long you can wait to file a suit. Under Louisiana law, you only have one year from the date of death to initiate a wrongful death claim. If you wait longer than that, unless there is compelling evidence as to why you delayed, the courts will likely not hear your case.
What compensation can you seek?
If you believe that the circumstances of your loss comply with the state wrongful death statute and you are within the statute of limitations, the next consideration is what compensation you can request. Many different factors impact what a reasonable award will be in a wrongful death case.
The courts will consider medical costs and funeral costs in a wrongful death suit. Families whose loved one languished in the hospital for several days before passing on will obviously have more significant medical expenses than those who lost a loved one instantly in a collision. The courts will also look at lost wages, loss of consortium and even loss of service.
Lost services refer to household work and duties performed by your deceased loved one. Whether it is lawn care or child care, those services have a value that you can seek in a wrongful death suit. You can also seek loss of consortium and pain and suffering damages, which relate more to your emotional connection with the deceased and the impact of this loss on your family. These kinds of compensation can help cover expenses related to grief counseling and similar services.
While taking action will not bring back the person you lost, it can protect their legacy of care and support for your family and offset some of the financial strain you experience after a tragic death.