The loss of a loved one can be overwhelming and it can send your world into a spiral. While worrying about legal matters may be the last thing you want to think about, it may be one of the first things you should do. Immediate consultation with an attorney will inform you whether or not medical experts, investigators or accident reconstruction experts are necessary.
I have represented clients where the liability insurance company for a semi-truck carrier had their expert on the scene before the fire was completely extinguished from the vehicle the semi struck. You should have the same access to experts. Failure to promptly investigate the accident scene can lead to the loss of important evidence and it can significantly hinder the success of a case.
Notify Your Insurance Company
If your loved one passed away in a fatal motor vehicle collision, you should contact your insurance agent and/or your insurance company and notify them about the collision. They will help ensure that any necessary claims are opened and that any expenses are processed in accordance with your insurance policy. If you have retained an attorney, he or she can do this for you. Let your attorney take some of the stress off of you during this difficult time.
The Liability Insurance Adjuster is Not “On Your Side”
Frequently, an adjuster from the negligent party’s liability insurance company will contact you and other family members following the accident. The adjuster will try to put on a façade that they care and are concerned for your family (some of it may even be true) when in fact their job is to find reasons to deny claims and/or pay as little as possible to settle the claim. Unfortunately, insurance adjusters even try to justify placing blame on your loved one. They may ask for recorded statements, medical records or authorizations and even ask for social security numbers and other personal information. Seek legal advice before complying with these requests. If you have an attorney, simply ask the adjuster to call your attorney and he or she will help answer their questions.
Retain an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If your loved one’s death was due to the negligence of another, you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle the case for you. The sooner you contact the attorney, the sooner he or she can get his or her investigator or expert to the scene of the accident. Additionally, retaining a personal injury attorney can help relieve stress and will allow you to focus on your family and loved ones.
What Kind of Damages Can the Family Recover?
As surviving spouse or child, or even as a parent, you may have a claim against the negligent person for economic damages (loss of future earnings, medical expenses, final arrangement costs, etc. . . .) and for noneconomic damages (e.g. loss of comfort, advice, companionship and society, pain and suffering).
There are many factors that need to be considered before opening a Probate Estate for your loved one. While your loved one’s creditors may tell you that an estate must be opened immediately, no one is legally obligated to open a probate estate. In fact, under certain circumstances, it best not to open an estate for at least six months. Consult with an attorney before opening a probate estate. If you have a personal injury attorney already, call him or her and see if they can recommend a probate attorney