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Sometimes, an auto accident will cause such serious injuries that the victim or victims die immediately or soon after the accident. In these cases, there can still be a court case to recover damages. While similar to regular personal injury cases, wrongful death cases, as they are called, have a few distinct differences.
Both types of cases involve seeking financial compensation for the accident. This category of damages includes medical bills and property damage. When the injured party has died, the lawsuit can also include the money lost in wages that the deceased would have earned if they had survived. This type of damages is usually restricted to those who did work and who were responsible for the family’s financial support. Future lost wages are based on current income numbers, which means that the amount that can be collected in this type of damages must be based on what the deceased person was making at the time of their death.
If the injured party is no longer living, the types of non-economic damages that can be sued for are also different. When a surviving victim sues for non-economic damages, they might sue for pain and suffering or emotional distress. If the injured party is no longer living, however, their survivors can ask for compensation for their emotional distress at having lost a loved one, which is usually called loss of companionship.
Of course, the biggest difference between a wrongful death case and a standard personal injury case is the identity of the plaintiff. Normally, only the injured party can sue for damages in a personal injury case. In a case where the injured person is no longer alive, however, their surviving heirs can sue on their behalf. Who is considered an heir depends on who the decedent was and what sort of relationships they had. In the case of a married adult with children, the surviving heirs are the spouse and the children. The parents of a person who died without children or a spouse are considered legal heirs. The heirs can not sue individually, but must file a single claim for the whole group and split the awards, if any.
Because there can be only one case, and the awards must be divided, it can be beneficial to hire an attorney to handle the court case. If you hire an attorney right away, you and the other surviving heirs can be sure that everyone is treated the same. An attorney can help you figure out who is legally entitled to be part of the class of surviving heirs.
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