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How Can You Recover Damages After a Fatal Car Accident?

— April 18, 2022

In order to recover damages, your lawyer needs to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused a fatal injury to the victim.

Grand Rapids, MI – In 2020, 1,083 people were killed in car accidents in Michigan, a 10% increase as compared to 2019, and keep in mind that was the first year of the pandemic and there was less traffic. Experts are still trying to figure out how come fatalities increased while traffic decreased. One possible explanation is the rise in the number of crashes caused by alcohol consumption. Indeed, several studies confirm alcohol consumption increased because of the stress caused by the pandemic. The families of those killed in car crashes don’t need explanations. They need justice and one way of achieving that is getting the damages they deserve for their loss. The process is quite complex and it’s best to contact a knowledgeable accident lawyer in Grand Rapids, MI to help you file a lawsuit.

Who can sue for damages in a fatal crash in Michigan?

Under Michigan law, it is the personal representative of the deceased who can file a wrongful death suit. If the deceased left no will and did not appoint a personal representative, a close relative can file a lawsuit. However, they are not the only one entitled to receive damages and they must notify all the other family members of their intention so they can assess their own damages.

Here are the persons entitled to claim damages in a fatal accident:

  • The surviving spouse and children of the deceased
  • The surviving parents, grandparents and siblings
  • Surviving children of the deceased’s spouse
  • Any other person named in the deceased’s will.

If there are no close relatives, anyone who stands to inherit from the deceased, such as cousins, can seek damages. 

How is a wrongful death claim proved in Grand Rapids, MI?

A wrongful death claim works pretty much the same as a personal injury claim, as the deceased could have filed had he lived. In these types of claims you will need an experienced lawyer to prove negligence. There are four elements to take into account.

Duty of care

Your lawyer will have to establish the party at fault, or the defendant, had a duty of care towards the victim. In car accidents, that’s not much of a problem since all drivers have an implied duty to care for the safety of other road users.

Breach of duty

This is the part where your lawyer will have to prove that the defendant acted with negligence and failed to do their duty. DUI crashes are a good example of negligence as getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink shows a total indifference towards other drivers or pedestrians.

Resulting injuries

Tombstone. Image via Maxpixel. Public domain.

In order to recover damages, your lawyer needs to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused a fatal injury to the victim. If your loved one was killed on the spot there’s no need for proof, but if they were hospitalized for some time before their death your lawyer will have to bring medical records establishing beyond a doubt that the death was directly caused by the injuries sustained in the crash.

Resulting damages

This is the part where a skilled Michigan accident attorney can help you most. The surviving relatives can recover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are fairly easy to calculate as they refer to such things as funeral and burial expenses or outstanding medical bills. Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate as they are meant to compensate for the such things as the loss of companionship, loss of protection or affection, etc, things that do not have an actual price.

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