The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office reports that a man died in Post Falls in January after his vehicle crossed the center lane of traffic and struck another vehicle head-on. After receiving reports of a two-car crash, Kootenai law enforcement discovered both vehicles in the middle of two eastbound lanes. One of the drivers involved in the crash was taken to a nearby medical facility for treatment of potential injuries. The other driver was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Initial investigation into the crash discovered that one driver crossed into oncoming traffic before striking another vehicle head-on. The sheriff's office has stated that it is not known if alcohol was a contributing factor in the crash.
The Association for Safe International Road Travel has found that more than 38,000 individuals die each year in accidents that occur on roads throughout the United States. Being involved in an accident that claims someone's life is often an overwhelming experience; the following outlines some important things to remember about car crashes involving fatalities.
Responsible Drivers Can End Up Facing Criminal Charges
A driver who causes a crash in which someone dies can end up facing criminal charges, particularly if the driver was under the influence of alcohol, operated a vehicle recklessly, or engaged in any other type of criminal act.
Other times, however, the driver who causes a crash is not criminally liable. For example, if a driver experienced a medical emergency or a vehicle malfunction and ended up causing the accident, he or she will likely avoid criminal charges but might still be found liable for the resulting damage in a civil case. In these situations, some of the other parties that might be liable for damage include third parties like vehicle owners, employers, or people who performed repairs on the vehicle.
It Might be Possible to Pursue a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Washington's wrongful death statute allows a person to pursue legal action when someone's death is the result of a wrongful act or negligence. While a deceased person cannot bring a lawsuit on their own, other people may bring a wrongful death lawsuit on the deceased individual's behalf. Wrongful death claims also enable family members to receive compensation for their own losses related to a loved one's death.
In Washington, wrongful death claims can only be initiated by the personal representative of the deceased individual's estate, the spouse or state-registered domestic partner of the deceased individual, and the children or stepchildren of the deceased individual. Wrongful death claims must be initiated within three years of the deceased individual's death.
The Responsible Driver's Insurance Rates Will Likely Increase
It is often the case that insurance rates increase following a deadly car crash. This is because the responsible driver's insurance carrier will likely be required to pay for damages and settle with the family of the person who was killed in the accident. Some policies, however, allow for first-accident forgiveness.
Challenging Emotions Will Likely Arise
Even if you did not know the person who died in the car accident, many people find themselves overwhelmed by emotions following car crashes that involve fatalities. In such a situation, understand that there is no one single proper way to navigate the grief that comes with such a tragedy and realize that finding a “new normal” often takes some time. Many people benefit from seeking professional mental health services when weathering the aftermath of such a traumatic event.
Speak With an Experienced Spokane Accident Attorney
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your car accident, one of the best things that you can do immediately after your crash is to speak with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. Contact West Law Office today to schedule a free case evaluation.