What To Do If A Loved One Is In A Fatal Auto Accident?

by The Roth Firm
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Losing a loved one at any age and for any reason is a traumatic event for you and your family. When you lose a loved because of a negligent driver or company, the feelings of loss are even more intense.

There will be moments when you don’t want to get out of bed, much less face the rest of your life without your child, spouse, parent, or relative.

The grief is intense and the reality is too harsh.

Family members and friends will want to help and comfort you, but they may also give you improper information on how to legally handle dealing with the at-fault insurance company’s agents and may not have the best contacts as to WHO can PROPERLY handle a wrongful death claim.

Here are the steps that our attorneys recommend you take immediately after a devastating loss involving the death of a loved one:

1. Do not handle a wrongful death case alone

Call a wrongful death law firm that specializes in wrongful death auto or truck wreck cases.

Many friends and family will recommend “their attorney” right after a loss, and that attorney will no doubt want to sign a contract to handle the case, whether or not he or she has any real experience handling these complex cases. You need to know whether that law firm handles personal injury and wrongful death cases.

If the firm holds itself out as a specialist in business litigation or trusts and estates work, while that firm may be very good at its areas of specialty, it may not be as versed in handling wrongful death claims, which may require setting up an estate, understanding the bad-faith insurance laws of the state, and a willingness to spend the money that it typically takes to investigate a wrongful death case.

2. Obtain and Write Down Contact Information for Witnesses.

Many times, the police report is not entirely accurate. Witnesses may not have stayed at the scene to speak with the police, or there may have been so many people at the scene that the officer did not write down all of the witnesses’ names.

If anyone contacts you or your family and says they were a witness, make sure to get their name, phone number, an e-mail address (phone numbers change often), and a mailing address, so that your attorney can contact these witnesses early in the case before memories fade or contact information changes.

You can find out more here about What to Do After a Car Accident in Georgia.

3. Do not give a statement to the at-fault insurance company.

After a loved one dies, the insurance company for the at-fault party will likely contact you and start asking questions.

They will be very nice and tell you how sorry they are.

After the pleasantries, they will ask you more questions, which will seem normal; however, they will use your answers against you and your family later in the case to try to reduce how much they pay out.

When the insurance company calls, simply tell them that you have an attorney, ask for adjuster’s name and phone number, the name of the insurance company, and let them know that they can speak to your attorney (even if you have not hired one yet).

4. Do Not Sign Anything From The Insurance Company

The insurance company will seem like they are on your side. They are trained to be kind and sound caring.

Unfortunately, insurance companies do not care about ‘doing the right thing’, they care about saving themselves money and saving their at-fault client’s money.

They may send you forms to fill out and sign, often times they will send a release that will immediately end the case.

You are not an attorney and no internet search can educate you as to what rights you are signing away when you sign a document from the insurance company.

If any document is sent to you by the insurance company, save the document and get it to a wrongful death attorney ASAP. 

5. Determine whether there is a will for the deceased and obtain a copy.

There are two claims involved when a loved one dies in Georgia due to the negligence of another party.

The first claim is called a wrongful death claim.

This claim is for the ‘full value of the life of the decedent (the loved one who died) from the deceased’s eyes.

This includes the economic value of the deceased’s life and also the non-economic value, like the loss of the relationship with your loved one, raising a family, and enjoying your lives together.

The second claim is called the estate claim

This claim permits the family of the decedent to recover for the pain and suffering of the deceased, any medical bills incurred before death, funeral expenses etc.

Punitive damages (damages to punish the at-fault defendant, for example, if he was DUI) must also be brought by the estate. If the decedent had a will, then the executor of the estate is responsible for bringing this claim. If there is no will, then the laws of intestacy (laws determining who has a rightful claim to the estate when there is no will) determine who has a claim to the estate.

6. Honor your loved one

A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are things that renew our humanity. Honor your loved one at their funeral.

Share stories and pictures and the joy that he or she spread to others. If you are reading this article because you have experienced a tragic loss in your life, we are terribly sorry. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© The Roth Firm | Attorney Advertising

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