When a loved one dies in a car accident, it is hard to go on. For many families, ensuing financial difficulties compound the emotional devastation. Michigan law entitles surviving spouses and children, as well as other dependents, to file suit to recover damages for wrongful death.
To prove wrongful death, you need to show the other driver actually caused the fatal accident and acted negligently. Here, negligence means failing to comply with ordinary standards of driving. While some accidents happen because of a driver's intoxication or other clearly illegal behavior, a wrongful death suit is a civil case. Thus, you can recover even if the driver was not charged with or convicted of a crime.
The other half of the case consists of showing damages. Noneconomic damages, also known as recovery for pain and suffering, do count. Other common damages include compensation for medical and funeral expenses for the deceased. If the accident victim earned a wage, the family can recover projected future wages and other benefits such as insurance and pension plans. The loss of a family member who did not earn a wage can also cause monetary damages, as such a person who often fulfills valuable domestic functions.
Finally, the law recognizes that losing a loved one damages family members by depriving them of that individual's care, guidance and companionship. Children who lose parents can claim additional compensation.
How wrongful death cases differ from ordinary accident cases
Wrongful death lawsuits contain several complexities unique to them. Calculating potential damages involves placing a monetary value on things money cannot buy. Because the representative of the deceased's estate files the lawsuit, probate court becomes involved, which may confuse personal injury attorneys who lack familiarity with the system. For these reasons, choosing an experienced wrongful death attorney and seeking a consultation as soon as possible is essential to get the best chance at winning your case.