Your phone rings early in the morning. The police officer on the other end tells you that your daughter's car has been hit by a drunk driver and she is dead. Every year thousands of Americans get that heart breaking call. Of course nothing can be done to undo the tragedy but you can do something to atone for the wrong.
The Wrongful Death Act
Under the law, this is done through the Wrongful Death Act. What this means is that family members and others who have suffered due to the death of a loved one can get financial compensation for their losses.
Under Minnesota law this means loss of financial support from the loved one but it can include much more.
Important Questions To Ask
For example, did the deceased loved one provide care or aid for another person? Did the victim provide comfort, companionship or socializing to others? Did he or she provide advice, guidance and counsel to another family member? Did the deceased person provide protection to a child or family member? All of the persons who suffered these losses may be entitled to compensation in a wrongful death claim.
In fact, a few years ago even an employer who lost his star salesman to a drunk driver was able to collect for the loss to the company.
Do you remember Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life"? George had touched the lives of many people. Some of the people who had depended upon him would have had a claim if George had been killed by a drunk driver.
Compensation From Insurance
When a loved one is killed by a drunk driver there is the possibility of compensation not only from the drunk driver's auto insurance policy but also from the victim's own auto policy or the policies of family members who the victim lived with. There may be compensation due from other insurance policies. What's more, if the drunk driver was given one drink too many by a bar or restaurant, there may be liquor liability insurance that the victim's family may be able to claim. Furthermore, if another driver helped cause the injury or worsened the situation, their insurance may be liable too even if they were not drunk at the time.
Sometimes people feel bad because the deceased loved one may have been careless or done something wrong before his or her death. It is important that the family knows that the misconduct of the victim in many cases does not deprive the victim's family and loved ones from the compensation they deserve.
As you can see, the issues of compensation from the drunk driver's insurance policy and other insurance sources can be complicated. For example, if the victim's family settles with one insurance company, that may cut off possible claims against other insurance companies. To prevent loss of these rights the victim's family should consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney before agreeing or signing anything from any insurance company or their agents.
Deadlines Of Legal Action
Finally, grieving over the death of a loved one can often cause family members to postpone dealing with the legal issues surrounding the death. Of course, a reasonable grieving period is a normal human reaction. But waiting too long can create problems. Important witnesses can be harder to locate and vital evidence can be lost. Besides that, under the law the time to begin legal proceedings for many of these insurance claims can be very short. If your case is not filed before the deadline, you may lose your rights altogether. You should seek qualified legal help reasonably soon after the death.
The contents of this article are for information only and is not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning.