Car accidents can be traumatic experiences, even when they do not involve a fatality. That stress can increase exponentially when a fatality is involved because criminal and civil liability may follow. Between 2010 and 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reports System showed that speeding was a factor in 32% of all fatal car accidents in West Virginia.
What To Do After A Car Accident?
After an accident, it is crucial to stay at the scene, especially if there is a fatality. Leaving the area can turn it into a hit-and-run, making it a grave crime with jail time and hefty fines. It is essential to contact the police immediately so that they can preserve the crime scene, take pictures, and file the police report.
When someone dies during a car accident, it can be negligent homicide if someone is driving with a disregard for others’ safety. The disregard for the protection of others means that a driver lacks the usual and ordinary care that a typical driver in the circumstances would have used. For example, if someone was recklessly speeding and hit another person’s car because they lost control of their vehicle, they could be liable for negligent homicide under West Virginia law.
If the State convicts someone of negligent homicide, the person can get one year in prison and $1,000 in fines. Additionally, their driver’s license may be revoked or suspended for a specific amount of time.
In West Virginia, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident without taking action first. Doing so, especially when there is a fatality, can result in a felony. A hit-and-run felony can result in one to five years in jail, up to $5,000 in fines, and license revocation for at least one year.
Driving Under The Influence Fatality
In some situations, driving under the influence and fatally injuring someone can result in the same punishment as a reckless disregard case. However, a driving under the influence fatality charge can sometimes be charged as a felony, resulting in up to five years in jail, $5,000 in fines, and permanent license revocation.
Steps To Filing A Lawsuit In West Virginia
Car accident claims usually follow the same process, but it may vary depending on the facts of each case. Hiring an experienced attorney at Salango Law, PLLC can make the following steps easier for each person involved:
- An insurance adjuster will reach out and try to settle claims,
- Solange Law, PLLC will begin to investigate and research the accident,
- The attorney will send a demand letter,
- The parties will negotiate a settlement depending on the insurance limits and the facts of the case,
- If a settlement is not achieved, a lawsuit will be filed and go to trial, and
- The jury will reach a verdict and determine damages if the jury finds them liable.
A personal injury lawsuit, especially one that involves a fatality, can take years to resolve because of the number of people who could be involved in the case and the extent of compensation the victims want. Additionally, fatal car accidents can be highly emotional for all, meaning they can take longer because depositions can cause a lot of emotions.
Who Are The Parties To A Fatal Car Accident?
The parties to a lawsuit for a fatal car accident can involve a number of people – the driver of each vehicle, the insurance companies, and family members of the individual who passed away as a result of the accident.
Civil Penalties For Fatality Accidents
On top of all the criminal penalties that can result from a fatal car accident, the family of the person who died in the accident can also sue for various damages.
Economic damages are more easily calculated and include but are limited to past and future medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages, lost earning capacity, funeral expenses, lost pension, lost pension, lost medical insurance, and loss of companionship. When someone passes because of an accident, it often has an economic effect on the deceased person’s family, especially if the person who passed was the main financial provider. An experienced attorney can review the facts of the case and assess all of the damages, estimating how much the victims should seek in economic damages.
Non-economic damages are less easy to calculate because they are subjective to the suffering family. For example, if someone passes away and leaves a spouse and kids will likely cause more emotional distress than someone who passes away without family. Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and psychological trauma.
In addition to economic and non-economic damages, when someone was recklessness, the surviving family can receive punitive damages, which punish the wrongdoer. For example, if someone was speeding and caused a fatal car accident, the jury may choose to award punitive damages to deter the person from acting recklessly in the future.
Hiring A Car Accident Attorney
If your loved one was involved in a fatal car accident, you can hire an experienced attorney to handle the case and act in your best interest. Our attorneys at Salango Law, PLLC, have experience handling fatal car accidents throughout West Virginia. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our highly experienced attorneys by calling us at (304) 342-0512 or reaching out online. During our free consultations, we will review the case and determine if there is a viable case or defense.