One of the worst phone calls you can get is if someone you know is killed or injured in a crash. It’s terrifying. It’s sad. And it can be difficult to align your thoughts well enough to figure out how to proceed.
Having a plan to take care of some basic essentials will set you and your loved one up to better navigate the complicated issues that follow such an accident.
These situations might seem like they are rare, but unfortunately traffic accidents lead to severe injuries and deaths every day. Tennessee had 1,148 fatal crashes in 2019. Kentucky had 734 fatal crashes in 2019.
These numbers shouldn’t scare us out of driving, but perhaps give us reason to pay close attention while we do so. And if you do find yourself in this terrible situation, knowing how to proceed will greatly help you.
So here is what you should do if someone you know is killed or injured in a crash.
Ensure Evidence Is Collected at the Crash Site
The police and medical personnel will be the very first call after the accident. The physical health of people involved in the car crash need to be taken care of before any other considerations can be addressed.
And in the case of a crash resulting in severe injuries or death, the speed at which help arrives can have a great impact on the ultimate outcome.
But once that’s taken care of, you should do your best to make sure you have any evidence you can use for the ensuing processes.
The police will be on hand to complete a police report. They will interview the people involved in the crash (if possible) as well as any witnesses. They’ll do their best to assess how the accident occurred and put this into the report.
Their report should be thorough. However, any extra supporting evidence will help. This is why it’s recommended for someone else to take as many pictures at the scene as possible without impeding local authorities.
Fault Is Determined
Fault will be assigned by the police after completing their investigation. They will make this determination from a combination of evidence gathered at the scene and eyewitness accounts. Assigning fault is essential for the insurance processes that will follow.
An experienced car accident attorney might complete an investigation of their own. Any evidence they find can be used when discussing compensation or even filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
The driver of the vehicle is not the sole possible person determined to be at fault.
For example, a defective car part that contributed to the accident can lead the manufacturer to be assigned liability in the accident. The owner of the car — if different from the driver — can also assume blame if they can be shown to have known the driver would not safely operate the vehicle. Surrounding drivers whose behavior contributed to the accident can also assume liability.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
You have one year after a fatal accident to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Tennessee. This is a lawsuit between surviving members of the victim’s family and the person or people deemed to be at fault for the accident. This is a means of holding the responsible parties accountable for thoughtless behavior that resulted in a person’s death.
These suits can be filed by the deceased person's spouse, children, and occasionally the parents. There are a few different considerations that will factor into the ultimate settlement:
- Pain and suffering on behalf of the deceased person
- Mental anguish for survivors
- Loss of financial support
- Medical bills
- Funeral costs
A personal injury lawyer will be able to guide you through the process and give you a realistic assessment of your particular case.
Potential Criminal Charges
Accidents happen. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. Many traffic accidents occur even when all involved drivers are on their best behavior. And even if the crash results in a death, criminal charges might not be brought against the person deemed to be at fault.
However, this isn’t always the case. A driver acting in a careless or reckless manner that leads to a fatal accident may face charges such as vehicular manslaughter.
Criminal liability can be proven with factors such as a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, or a failure to adhere to traffic laws.
Scenarios such as slick roadways as a result of inclement weather, or a mechanical failure can be determined to be out of the driver’s hands. This makes it much less likely they will face criminal charges.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney
An experienced car accident attorney like the professionals at Bart Durham Injury Law can help guide you through the difficult processes after a loved one is killed or severely injured in an accident.
Contact us for a free consultation today and learn about your options.