What Happens After a Fatal Car Accident?

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When someone dies in a car accident, their survivors will have to deal with the aftermath. Filling out paperwork, talking to insurance agents, and making funeral arrangements are the last thing anyone wants to think about while they are grieving. Unfortunately, this is the reality for the families of the 38,000 people who will die in car crashes each year.

This article will explain the basics of what you can expect after a fatal car accident. If you lose a loved one in a wreck, this information will help you understand more about the process.

Identifying the Body

You may be asked to identify your loved one’s body at the morgue. The bodies of fatal accident victims may be badly damaged or they may have no visible damage if they succumbed to internal bleeding or injuries. Whether or not you want to see the deceased to say goodbye is a personal decision. If you can’t handle it, it is okay to ask someone else to go in your place.

About Organ Donation

If the deceased wanted to be an organ donor, you may want to consider honoring their wishes by helping another family. If your loved one died in the hospital, you will be able to donate their organs. If they died at the scene you will only be able to donate tissue or corneas.

The Car and Other Personal Effects

The police may hold onto the car during their investigation. Either the police, mortuary staff, or hospital staff will hold onto any personal effects your loved one had during the accident, such as belongings that were in the car, their cell phone, or any jewelry they were wearing.

You will be able to collect the deceased’s belongings if you wish, but it is optional and you don’t have to. If items are bloodstained, you will be able to remove the blood stains yourself or ask that they be cleaned before they are returned to you.

Filing an Insurance Claim

After a fatal crash, the deceased’s surviving family member will need to file a claim with the accident victim’s insurance company. A claims adjuster will be appointed to your case, and they will ask you questions about the accident. During this process, it is important that you do not admit anything if you believe the deceased was even partially at fault.

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Different insurance companies have different guidelines regarding the time limit for filing a claim. Ask the victim’s insurance companies what their guidelines are to make sure you don’t miss the deadline. For most companies, this will be 90 days.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If your loved one did not cause the accident that killed them, you may want to consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit. You may want to file a claim yourself at the courthouse, but your claim will have a greater chance of being successful and you’ll stand to gain more compensation if you have an experienced car accident attorney represent you.

You may be able to collect damages for:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of companionship or consortium
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of financial support
  • The cost of hiring someone to perform household duties

In some cases, you may also be awarded punitive damages. This kind of compensation is meant to punish the at-fault driver for their actions. Punitive damages are awarded when the at-fault driver meant to cause harm or behaved in an extremely negligent manner, such as drunk driving.

Which survivors of the deceased will be able to file a claim will depend on your state’s laws. A lawyer can tell you who will be able to recover damages and how the compensation will be distributed.

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