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Wrongful Death

WRONGFUL DEATH

When a loved one has died as a result of an accident, it’s important that you know your rights and responsibilities, to help bring justice for your suffering and compensation to your loss. The team of personal injury professionals at Murphy & Pressentin can help you recover monetary compensation for the losses to you and your family. We also bring you the following information on wrongful death and survival claims.

WRONGFUL DEATH AND SURVIVAL ACTIONS

The carnage from accidents on our roads and highways is a major source of death and injury in the United States. In 2013, 32,719 people lost their lives and 2,310,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.

Wrongful Death is defined as a fatality caused by “the wrongful act or neglect of another.”

Negligent Driving is the cause of most wrongful death claims. Most of these cases are brought against people who cause accidental deaths while driving carelessly. Examples of careless driving include running a red light, driving at unsafe speeds, or using a cell phone instead of watching the road. A negligent driver’s automobile liability insurance will cover claims made up to the policy limits. Some driver’s have additional insurance (such as umbrella coverage provided by a homeowner’s policy) that can also be used to pay compensation for a loss caused by negligent driving. An experienced injury attorney will be able to conduct an investigation to locate any additional policies or sources of compensation.

Who possesses the wrongful death claim? State law allows certain people (usually heirs – spouse, children, parents, or siblings) to bring a claim for compensation for their losses that resulted from their loved one’s wrongful death. The claim may be made directly to the negligent driver’s insurer or filed in court action.

How long do I have to bring a wrongful death claim? State law limits the time within which all injury claims must either be resolved by settlement or filed in a civil court action. State laws vary, but most have limitations of two years from the day of the accident (California, Illinois, Pennsylvania) while others have three years (Wisconsin). Some states have only one year (Tennessee). It’s important that you understand exactly how long you have to bring your claim, for if you miss the limitations period by even one day, your right to compensation will be lost forever.

What is a survivorship claim? While the wrongful death claim compensates family members for their losses due to a loved one’s demise, the survivorship claim is a claim made by the deceased’s estate for compensation for the losses the deceased incurred prior to passing. This would include any medical expenses or lost wages during hospitalization. Some states (not California) permit the estate to seek damages for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced prior to death.

Damages recovered through a survivorship claim become the property of the deceased’s estate and are distributed to the deceased’s heirs.

What compensation can be awarded for wrongful death? In addition to the losses to the estate that can be pursued through a survivorship claim, family members may seek compensation for their own losses. Some of those losses are financial while other losses are emotional, such as the loss of the deceased’s love and companionship.

Financial losses would include the loss of the deceased’s income to those who were dependent upon it for their economic support. Economic damages may also involve the value of gifts or future inheritance that would have been received had the deceased enjoyed their normal life expectancy. Household services the deceased provided are subject to valuation and compensation. For instance, household chores of cooking, cleaning or laundry may be calculated over a person’s life expectancy for dollar values. In addition, the advice, love and direction which a parent would be expected to provide to a child may be assigned a dollar value for reimbursement.

Noneconomic damages for wrongful death compensate people for three categories of losses:

  • The loss of the departed’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support.
  • In situations of a spouse, the loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations with the deceased.
  • Primarily in the case of a child, the loss of the training and guidance that the deceased would have provided.

Some states (not California) permit payment of damages for grief, sorrow or mental anguish that the person bringing the claim has experienced as a result of their loss.

It is difficult to place a dollar value on the loss of love and companionship. An experienced injury attorney will be able to develop information necessary to analyze and assign reasonable values to the various losses experienced by each family member entitled to advance a claim.

Amputations. If an injury results in the loss of a limb then the consequences are both life changing and traumatic. In many cases it leads to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). No one can underestimate the devastation experienced by someone who has lost an arm or leg which not only affects their quality of life but of those close to them.

COMPENSATION CANNOT BRING BACK MY LOVED ONE. WHY SHOULD I SEEK IT?
No amount of compensation can restore a lost life. No award of damages will replace the love you received from a family member who died. However monetary compensation – an award of dollars – is the method by which our civil justice system dispenses justice. If you are entitled to compensation, there are several reasons you should seek it.

REPLACE FINANCIAL SUPPORT. You will find it difficult to go on without the support of your lost spouse or relative. However your burden should not be made heavier by losing the financial support and services your loved one provided. If you depended on that person’s income to help pay for housing, food, tuition, transportation, clothing, or other expenses, you should not be deprived of those necessities due to another person’s wrongful or careless conduct. Your loved one wanted you to have those things. Bringing a claim to replace the lost income assures that you will have what your loved one wanted you to have.

DETERRING FUTURE MISCONDUCT. Every claim for injuries sends a message. People who know they will be held accountable for their carelessness are less likely to be careless. Insurance companies that pay money for injuries and death are more likely to lobby for increased safety standards and for stricter enforcement of laws designed to prevent fatal accidents.

PERSONAL SATISFACTION. You are not able to take legal action to send a person to jail for their conduct, which is for the criminal justice system over which you have no control. However by pursuing wrongful death damages you can assure that the person is held financially responsible for his or her conduct. The sense of justice that you can receive from a settlement or verdict may give you a sense of closure that you would not otherwise experience.

When you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, it’s important that you know your rights and responsibilities, to help bring justice for your suffering and compensation to your pain. The team of personal injury professionals at Murphy & Pressentin can help you recover monetary compensation for the losses to you and your family. We also bring you the following safe motorcycle driving tips to help you avoid future disasters.

THE TOP 6 DEFENSIVE DRIVING TIPS

Motorcycle riders are at higher risk than other vehicles because bikes are smaller, less visible and less stable than four-wheeled vehicles. Motorcycles have fewer barriers to prevent injuries compared to automobiles, which have seat-belts, air bags, door and roof beams, and windshields. Although motorcycle riders are only 2% of all vehicles on the road, they account for 5% of all fatalities.

Motorcycles do have some safety advantages, as they are more agile, can turn quickly to avoid hazards and obstacles, and they have a much shorter stopping distance. The key to defensive driving of motorcycles then, in addition to applying the defensive driving tips for four-wheeled vehicles (please review), is to maximize the safety advantages and compensate for the increased exposure risk.

These 8 defensive driving tips are essential to becoming a safe motorcycle driver. Defensive driving is defined as “driving to save time, lives and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.”

While every situation is different and will require its own specific course of action, there are 8 very basic defensive driving tips that should always be followed while you ride. If you discipline yourself to follow these 8 rules each time you ride, you will become a safer rider and reduce the risk of being involved in an accident. The key is self-discipline, as anytime you violate one of these rules you are putting yourself and everyone around you at risk

1. INCREASE YOUR VISIBILITY, BUT ASSUME YOU’RE INVISIBLE

Use daytime lights, bright colors and lots of chrome to increase visibility. Beeping your horn at the first sign of danger is very important to help others see you. The angle of view of cars and bigger vehicles is not good for smaller targets like motorcycles or bikes.

Use lane choice (left, center or right thirds of a lane) to increase your visibility to other traffic, depending on the circumstances. Avoid overtaking on the right, as circumstances arise where vehicles try to merge from the right thinking the lane is open because it looks empty at a glance. Avoid blind spots – never ride in another driver’s blind spot alongside the rear of a vehicle.

Be vigilant at all times and assume that you are invisible! Look at all driveways and intersections and be prepared to take evasive action if someone doesn’t see you.

2. HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN

In order to be one of the safest riders on the road, you must always have an escape plan. This is a skill that is learned over time. While you may be a great rider, it’s hard to predict what other drivers around you may do. There are also factors beyond your control that can change a routine driving situation into a driving emergency quite quickly. Say an animal runs into the road and the driver ahead slams on their brakes. Or another driver turns from a driveway in front of your motorcycle. These are the situational hazards which defensive riders need to foresee. What will you do? Where will you go? In all riding situations, the best way to avoid potential danger are to position your motorcycle where you have an alternate escape plan at all times.

Unfortunately, you share the road with drivers who don’t take driving safely seriously. That’s why you must always leave yourself an out in case the worst happens. Having an escape plan is crucial to your safety.

Having an escape plan requires that you establish and maintain a buffer around your motorcycle. If someone pulls up alongside you and matches their speed to yours, either speed up or slow down so that the lane next to you is clear. That way, if you need to swerve, you have somewhere to go. Likewise maintain a safe following distance so swerving won’t even be necessary. Beware of tailgaters. If you speed up, the tailgater will speed up too. Control the situation by slowing down and allowing the tailgater to pass. By establishing and maintaining a buffer zone, both in front, behind and to the side, you give yourself options and more than one escape route whenever possible.

3. BE COMPETENT AT BRAKING, CORNERING AND CURVES

Be sure that you are really competent at braking, cornering and curves, as these are the trickiest maneuvers and require the most experience. In single vehicle accidents, motorcycle rider error is present as the precipitating factor in two-thirds of the crashes. The typical error is a slide-out and fall due to excess speed and running wide on a curve, over-braking or under-cornering.

4. USE CARS AS SHIELDS AT INTERSECTIONS

To prevent accidents at intersections, use cars as shields by passing through intersections alongside cars and other vehicles, especially if you are able to position yourself where the other traffic is in the left lane blocking another car from turning directly in front of you. (Attach #6 here)

5. STAY IN THE SAFEST LANE

When riding on multi-lane divided interstate highways, the safest lane is the far left lane (if there’s a shoulder). The far right lane is subject to vehicles constantly merging onto the highway and other vehicles exiting. With a shoulder, the far left lane gives the motorcyclist an escape route and subjects the rider to vehicles on three sides, not four. Middle lanes may be safer if there is no left lane shoulder, as they offer multiple escape routes, but middle lanes also carry the risk of twice as many vehicles that may potentially merge into the motorcyclist’s lane. Never ride in another driver’s blind spot alongside the rear of a vehicle. When passing alongside cars to your right, pass them quickly to minimize the window of opportunity for an abrupt lane-changing vehicle to collide with your motorcycle. Try to ride alongside car gaps in the next lane, or if necessary, alongside the driver’s front left quarter panel where you will be clearly visible. Also pay attention to the occasional left-hand entrance or exit to the highway, as cars may merge from that direction as well.

6. AVOID LANE SHARING WITH OTHER MOTORCYCLES

When riding with other motorcycles, avoid lane sharing. If one of two riders must swerve to avoid something like a large pothole, animal, random object or another vehicle, a neighboring motorcycle will endanger both cycles as it will occupy the safety zone. A swerve is now impossible and you will either wreck or turn into the rider next to you, causing two riders to crash in injury. A staggered formation is best as it creates a safety zone for evasive maneuvers by each motorcycle and creates a larger visual for drivers to see. Only when coming to a stop at a light or sign should riders be parallel.

7. MAINTAIN YOUR MACHINE PROPERLY

Ensure that your motorcycle is mechanically fit and safe to ride. Check for proper tire inflation and that brakes, engine chain/belt, suspension, lights and oil/fluids are in working order.

8. WEAR PROPER CLOTHES AND EQUIPMENT

Goggles or glasses, boots, gloves, jeans or leather pants, and leather or a denim jacket will protect your bare skin from coming in direct contact with the pavement in the event of a crash. While helmet laws have their proponents and critics, helmets have certainly saved lives in many circumstances. Clothes with protection for knees, elbows and shoulders are important as they decrease the odds of broken bones and tendons at these points. The first body parts to hit the ground usually sustain the worst injuries in light to mild crashes. If you hit a corner, the chance for injury is high and the recovery, slow and difficult. The use of heavy boots, gloves and jacket are effective in preventing or reducing abrasions or lacerations in the event of a crash.

TESTIMONIALS

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Testimonials

“After the insurer offered us $150,000, they discovered an undisclosed
$1,000,000 umbrella policy and forced the insurer to admit it applied
to our accident, resulting in a near policy limits settlement.”

David Farwell, Deerfield August 23, 2016

Personal Injury Lawyers Disclaimer: The personal injury, wrongful death, negligence motor vehicle accident and/or other legal information offered by Murphy & Pressentin, LLC, Personal Injury Lawyers, is not formal legal advice, nor the formation of an Attorney-Client relationship. Any results set forth herein are based only upon the facts of that particular case and offer no promise or guarantee on the outcome of any case.