Fatal car accidents often leave families behind in ruins. You probably don’t know what comes next if you lost a loved one to a fatal crash. Losing a loved one is an unimaginable experience. While you and your family are grieving a lost loved one, the last thing you need is to navigate a complicated insurance claim or legal process. No mourning family should have to face such a catastrophic situation alone. If you lost a loved one due to an accident caused by a negligent driver in Florida, you could file a wrongful death lawsuit.
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Practical Steps to Take After a Fatal Car Crash
Preserving evidence from the accident scene and the vehicles involved is imperative. However, it can be difficult to think about this in the first hours or days after losing a loved one. After hearing that your friend or family member’s life was taken in a crash, preserving evidence is probably the last thing on your mind. That’s why the first action is contacting a Florida wrongful death attorney. Gearing up with strong legal representation is the best way to ensure a thorough investigation into the accident.
Florida Statutes Section 382.081, F. S. 1977 outlines the following conditions for death registration following a car accident fatality:
- Death certificates are filed with the local registrar of the district where the death occurred within three days of the incident. This should be done before the final disposition or removal of the body from the state.
- The Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services can prescribe a certificate of death.
- If the death occurred in a moving conveyance, the death certificate should be filed where the accident occurred.
- A funeral director or person who initially assumes custody of the dead body should file the death certificate. They will obtain personal data from the next of kin who is most qualified to provide such information. Then, the funeral director will receive the medical certification showing the cause of death from a physician, medical examiner, or coroner.
- The medical certification should be completed and signed within 48 hours of death. The physician in charge of the patient’s care is responsible.
- If there was no medical attendance at the time of death, a medical examination, coroner, or another qualified official, can take charge of the case to investigate the cause of death. They would be responsible for completing and signing the medical certification within 48 hours of taking charge of the case.
Some families opt to have a coroner do an autopsy to officially document their loved one’s injuries. In addition, they can provide a precise cause of death. If you’re unsure about an autopsy, speak to your attorney. After that, you can arrange to have your loved one moved to a facility for a funeral.
Assume Responsibility for the Estate
Someone will have to take charge of managing your loved one’s estate. An estate is any property, money, assets, and debts your loved one owned. They might have left behind a will where they specifically named someone as the executor of their will. Most often, the spouse, parent, or children are named the executor of a deceased person’s will. If you are the executor of the will, you will need to manage your loved one’s financial affairs.
Notify the Insurance Company to Start a Claim
The first step to get started on a wrongful death claim is to notify the at-fault party’s insurance company. We can also help give notice to any other relevant parties. For instance, let’s say the at-fault driver was working at the time. It’s a good idea to notify their employer as they can help preserve potential evidence.
Should I Get an Independent Investigation After a Fatal Car Accident?
While the insurance company will launch an immediate investigation for claims purposes, it might benefit you to get an independent investigation. Relying on insurance companies for such a serious matter won’t always work in your favor. If you let the insurance company decide what happened and who was at fault, you could get shorted in the end.
Our legal team can help you gather evidence and have a professional third party conduct a thorough investigation. Examples of evidence include police reports, pictures, surveillance videos, eyewitness accounts, and any medical documentation. If you don’t have the medical records of your loved one before their passing, we can help you get them from the hospital.
Cooperate With the Insurance Company – After You’ve Consulted With an Attorney
The insurance company may attempt to question you or any relatives who were involved in the accident. However, you are not legally obligated to give a statement or answer any questions.
If the insurance company contacts you, it’s okay to postpone and say you’ll get back to them. However, the most important thing to do is consult with an experienced Florida wrongful death attorney to help you prepare a statement. Answering impromptu questions could be detrimental later. And while it’s important to give the insurance companies the information they need, they shouldn’t be a burden to you or your family.
Hire Experienced Legal Representation After a Fatal Car Accident
If your loved one died in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, reach out to an attorney to discuss your options. You or your surviving family might be entitled to compensation if your loved one died at the hands of a reckless or careless driver.
An attorney can review the fact of your case and advise on whether or not you can pursue a Florida wrongful death lawsuit. They can also help you understand your rights and how the claims process works.
How to Handle the Medical Bills After a Fatal Car Accident
In most cases, hospitals expect the deceased person’s estate to pay for any medical debt. If there is insufficient money in the estate, the family members are sometimes held responsible for paying the bills. If you ignore medical bills, the hospital could send them to collections. Then, rather than dealing with the hospital, you’d be dealing with creditors during the probate process.
By finding an experienced law firm that specializes in Florida personal injury and Florida wrongful death, you can ensure you hold the right parties accountable. In addition, you can avoid the headache of dealing with collections. Your attorney might discuss options like your loved one’s health insurance, PIP, or Med Pay auto insurance to cover the medical bills.
If your loved one had life insurance or an accidental death plan, we could help you file a claim accordingly. You may be able to use those funds to cover medical, funeral, burial, and other expenses.
Even with insurance coverage, there might still be other bills to consider. We can handle communications with medical providers about working out a payment plan or suspending payments until you receive a settlement or award in court. This is standard practice, where the hospital will agree to put a lien on your settlement. Doing so can help your family avoid any collection processes.
Pursue a Full Settlement for the Wrongful Death of Your Loved One
If you file a wrongful death claim in Florida, you could potentially recover compensation for the following:
- Medical bills
- Funeral costs
- Burial costs
- Lost income
- Lost future inheritance
- Loss of household services
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
To get a fair wrongful death settlement, we will help establish the at-fault party’s liability. While we understand no amount of money can amount to a lost life, financial compensation can help families handle unexpected expenses. First, we will gather clear and convincing evidence that the other party was responsible for causing the accident that killed your loved one. Then we drive those points home when dealing with insurance companies to get you a justified settlement. Finally, we will take your case to trial if they don’t want to cooperate.
Contact a Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer
We have experienced personal injury and wrongful death lawyers who have helped countless accident victims and surviving families. More importantly, we treat our clients like our own family and with respect and compassion. That’s because we understand how challenging these times can be.
You and your surviving loved ones should take steps to protect your legal rights after losing someone to a fatal car crash. If you need more information about how to bring a wrongful death claim in Florida, contact us today. We offer a free initial consultation.