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Wrongful Death Claims for Fatal Car Accidents in Indiana

Wrongful Death Case After A Negligent Driver Causes a WreckA fatal car accident is a tragic but all too common occurrence on Indiana’s roads. Nearly 800 people die in traffic crashes every year here. That means that each year as many as 800 spouses, 1,600 parents, and 1,200 children get the news nobody wants to hear—that their husband, wife, parent, or child is never coming home again. There is no consolation for such a loss, but when the person died because of another driver’s negligence or wrongdoing, you can take action to hold the person accountable for their actions. Whether the prosecutor is bringing criminal charges or not, you may be able to file a wrongful death action against the at-fault driver.

What Makes a Fatal Car Crash a Wrongful Death in Indiana?

Not every fatal crash will result in a wrongful death claim. In order for a wrongful death lawsuit to be filed, it must be shown that the crash was caused by negligent actions and that the death caused harm to surviving family members. More specifically, you must prove all of the following:

  • The person’s death was caused by negligent or wrongful actions by another.
  • The death caused harm to surviving dependents.
  • You have a rightful claim to damages as a beneficiary.

Any careless or negligent action on the part of a driver that causes a fatal crash could result in a wrongful death lawsuit. Some examples include running a red light, excessive speed, failure to yield, texting and driving, and driving while intoxicated. Some of these actions could also lead to criminal charges being filed against the at-fault driver, but those charges are completely separate from a wrongful death claim. While a criminal charge could lead to jail time, loss of a driver’s license, and fines, a successful wrongful death claim leads to financial damages being awarded to the surviving family members.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Indiana?

The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to compensate survivors for their economic and emotional losses. Therefore, the person filing the claim must prove that they have suffered losses as a result of the death. In Indiana, a wrongful death claim may be filed by the following:

  • Surviving spouse of the deceased
  • Dependent children of the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased

Other representatives of the deceased’s estate may be eligible to file as well. Losses for which you may be compensated include emotional distress, loss of companionship, and loss of support, as well as funeral expenses and the cost of any medical treatment received by the victim between the crash and the death.

You Will Need Legal Support

Filing a wrongful death suit is never an easy decision. You know that no amount of money will bring back your loved one, but you also know that you and any other dependents will suffer financially because of the loss. If the at-fault driver was purposely careless or reckless, he or she should be held accountable for the actions that led to your loved one’s death. In most cases, damages will be paid by the negligent driver’s insurance company, but if he or she has financial means, other sources of compensation will also be investigated.

When you have lost a loved one in a car crash, you can turn to the wrongful death attorneys at Keller & Keller. We understand what you are going through and, more importantly, we understand Indiana law and what you are entitled to under it. You are already suffering emotionally—don’t add to your suffering by failing to seek the damages to which you are entitled. Call one of our Indiana locations—in Indianapolis or Granger—today to discuss your loss. We will be honest about what we can do for you so that you can get started on the road to healing after your tragic loss. Schedule a free consultation at any of our offices. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Jim Keller
Partner at Keller & Keller

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How Much Is My Car Accident Injury Claim Worth?

Before we look at the factors that determine the value of your car accident claim, know this: NO ONE can initially tell you what your car accident claim is worth; not until you tell your version of the story, liability is nailed down, your medical treatment is finished, and an experienced personal injury law firm has reviewed your case.

And it's ok not to have an immediate dollar amount thrown at you. After all, if your accident had a "price tag," then there would be no opportunity for you to present your particular case, meaning you'd potentially risk shorting yourself thousands of dollars, or the entire claim!

(Having settled thousands of personal injury cases, we are certain of one fact: No two clients are alike, no two car accidents are alike, no matter how similar they seem.)

Our firm's #1 goal is likely similar to your own at the moment: recover the maximum amount of compensation for the accident. The way to ensure you receive a fair settlement is to present a professional and persuasive case that is supported by medical documentation and measurable course(s) of treatment, e.g., physical therapy.

WHAT FACTORS CAN INCREASE MY CASE VALUE?

You're likely worried about hospital bills, property damage, lost wages, and a possible change in lifestyle, so a quick settlement may seem attractive. However, as time passes, most clients are thankful they took the time to consult with someone who could advise them of future factors that could potentially increase their case value.

Scenarios that can increase the value of a car accident case might include:

  • The client's injuries worsened over time, leading to unforeseen treatments and costly procedures.
  • The client didn't predict the type and/or duration of treatment their injuries required.
  • The client didn't anticipate the strain the accident would place on their personal life.
  • The client didn't account for the long-term psychological effects.

These points are common after-effects accident victims are unable to predict immediately following their accident, and the insurance company is going to try and settle with you before any of these scenarios occur.

Ultimately, your damages are likely to have additional value if presented to an insurance company by way of experienced legal representation. Having an attorney allows you to take the time you need to ultimately see the full picture of your claim, and remember, once you sign a release of all claims, you're essentially telling the insurance company they're "off the hook."

ARE SIMILAR ACCIDENT TYPES WORTH THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY?

Each person is unique, each accident is unique, every case has unique value, and there are no exceptions to this rule. Let's look at an example:

  • Driver A is a young pregnant female with no pre-existing medical conditions. She has been involved in a rear-end car accident collision. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital for examination of back and neck pain. The doctors diagnose her with whiplash and prescribe her a course of treatment that is consistent with the needs of her pregnancy. She completes treatment and is released soon after.
  • Driver B is a middle-aged male with prior back surgery. He has also been involved in a rear-end style car accident collision and is experiencing neck and back pain. He was not able to visit a doctor until two weeks after the crash due to fear of missing work and losing his job. When he is able to visit the doctor, he is diagnosed with whiplash and is prescribed a course of physical therapy. He is released soon after.

Let's also assume that Driver A and Driver B were rear-ended at the same spot on the same highway on the same day. Additionally, the vehicles that struck A & B were traveling at the same speed at the time of impact. Weather conditions were the same for both accidents, and both A & B and the adverse drivers have the same insurance companies, etc.

What does all this mean?

Despite everything we know about driver's A & B accident details, their claims will have different values!

Even with all the listed similarities, it's very unlikely that driver A & B will undergo the similar medical treatment for their injuries; respond to treatment in the same manner; or experience the same types of aggravation and frustration in the days and months after their accident.

IS IT TRUE THAT I'LL GET THREE TIMES THE MEDICAL BILLS FOR MY ACCIDENT CLAIM?

This "formula" is an estimate that has often been thought of by many as a way to value car accident claims. And though it is true that you may receive three times your medical bills, it's also just as likely that you'll receive more or less.

In short, never assume the value of your car accident claim is simply "3 x's your medical bills."

WHAT THINGS CAN I RECOVER FOR IN MY CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM?

There are typically 3 components we look to recover for in a personal injury case that arises from a car accident:

  1. Past and future medical bills
  2. Past and future lost wages, or loss of earning capacity
  3. Past and future pain, suffering, disfigurement, and disability

Again, the numbered factors above don't apply to every case, and you should always have an experienced injury lawyer evaluate your specific claim.

IS THERE EVER AN INSTANCE IN WHICH I CAN IMMEDIATELY KNOW MY CASE VALUE?

Accidents that leave a person with traumatic injuries; broken bones; the need for surgery; permanent hardware; and/or cause death, may constitute what is known as a "policy limits demand."

In these instances, our personal injury attorneys will immediately notify the adverse insurance company of our representation of a client and ask that they send us what is known as a "certified declarations (DEC) sheet." This document will reveal the total amount of available dollars under the liable party's policy.

Once we receive the DEC sheet we will be able to tell you how much money is available, and whether or not your injuries justify asking for the entire amount. However, it will still be very difficult to predict the value of your car accident claim, because other factors will almost certainly play a role.

For instance, we may be able to reduce certain medical bills on your behalf so that you're not required to pay back the full amount, thus increasing your settlement. We may also be able to secure Underinsured Motorists Coverage (UIM) from your policy in the event that the adverse policy limits are inadequate.

ASK AN ATTORNEY TO REVIEW THE INSURANCE POLICY.

Asking an experienced personal injury attorney to examine an insurance policy ensures you aren't leaving money on the table. Policies can be confusing, full of difficult-to-understand contract language, some of which is applicable to your case, and some that isn't.

If your everyday job doesn't require you to review insurance policies, then your chance of fully understanding available coverage will be challenging. Fortunately, we have more than 75 years of locating and examining insurance polices for car accident victims, so we can help guide you and youir family in the right direction at no cost.

Ultimately, speaking with an experienced injury law firm about your case is an excellent step toward determining what your car accident case is worth.

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