My Child Was Killed by an 18-wheeler. What Should I Do Next?
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The loss of a child is perhaps the most devastating loss any parent can contemplate. Parents who lose their child will often be at a complete loss and emotionally traumatized. When the death of your child is due to the negligence of another, the death may be all the more painful knowing that it could have been prevented.
What to Do After Losing a Child in a Truck Accident
1. Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer
An experienced wrongful death lawyer is a valuable ally if you are planning to file a claim. This is because piles and piles of evidence are often needed to support your case, and the law can be extremely intricate. An experienced attorney will conduct the investigation and gather the necessary evidence to best support your case, unloading a huge burden off your back.
2. Document the Accident
When you file a wrongful death claim, you have the burden of proof to show that you may be entitled to compensation because the other party was negligent. This means that you must present evidence that the negligent party was indeed negligent. To show this, you must substantiate your claim with evidence. Evidence can be photographs, medical bills, witness statements, and the like. Additionally, any documentation that shows them breaching federal regulations, state rules, or interstate trucking regulations may also strengthen your claim.
3. Keep Receipts and Invoices
You should keep and document any costs that arise from the wrongful death of your child. For instance, you should gather any medical bills and funeral bills that you incurred due to your child’s death. If your child was an adult and supported you financially, you should also gather his or her pay stubs and the like.
4. Notify Insurance Company
Regardless of whose fault the accident is, you should always contact your insurance company as your insurance company may be able to give you some relief. However, do not make the mistake of talking about who was at fault for the accident. If your insurance company asks for a recorded statement, politely refuse.
5. Building Your Wrongful Death Claim
To seek compensation for wrongful death, you must prove that the party that caused the death was negligent. To prove the party’s negligence, you must show the following:
- The individual owed a legal duty
- The legal duty was breached
- The breach of the duty caused the death
- The death caused monetary loss
For instance, if your child died after a collision with a semi-truck because the semi-truck driver was drunk, then you may have a good case against the driver. First, you would need to show that the driver owed a duty not to be drunk while driving, which is a given. Next, you would show that the driver breached the duty because he or she was drunk. Then you would show that the driver’s drunkenness caused the death of your child. Finally, you would show that you suffered monetarily because of the death of your child.
6. Negotiate with Insurance Company
Despite what insurance companies may say on their advertisements, their claims adjusters are not trained to give you the most generous offer possible. In general, they will try to lowball you. Therefore, you should not simply accept whatever the insurance company offers you without knowing the value of your claim and talking to a lawyer.
In any negotiation, you will likely get a counteroffer that is less than what you want. However, do not simply accept the offer. If you have a claim with merit, you can always tell the insurance company that you are willing to go to trial. You may get a better offer if you show that you are confident enough to go to trial. Trials are expensive and timely for insurance companies, and they will avoid having claims go to trial.
Settlements are generally paid by the insurance company of the negligent party. Remember, however, that insurance holders typically carry policies with a limit. If you settle for an amount that exceeds the negligent party’s liability limit, the negligent party may personally be liable.
If you disagree with the settlement offer, you may proceed to trial. However, trials can be risky as there is the likelihood that you may not receive as much compensation as offered in the settlement. But if you feel that you have a valid claim and substantial evidence, you should consider going to trial if the settlement offer is much lower than what you deserve.
How to Calculate the Value of Your Claim?
Calculating the value of a claim for a lost child does hold many similarities to an equivalent claim for an adult. It might be easier to understand how monetary value is derived by looking at how courts determine the value of a claim for a deceased adult. Moreover, if your child was an adult at the time of his or her death, then the following may apply.
Number of dependents and the amount of loss and damages
Often, the earning potential of the deceased is measured when determining the amount of compensation for a wrongful death claim. Thus, the deceased’s age, education, and career are considered. For instance, if your child was 30 years old when he or she died, was a doctor, and was supporting you financially, then the court or jury may compensate the loss of your child more substantially than if your child was 10 when he or she died.
When considering the value of a claim for a case involving a child, the following factors are utilized:
- The age, life expectancy, health status, work expectancy
- Child’s earning potential
- The relationship of the child to those filing the wrongful death suit on behalf of the child
- The health, age and situation of those filing the wrongful death suit on behalf of the child
Even if your child was under 18 years old when he or she passed away, there are still many variables in deriving the value of the claim. If your child was 16 years old and had an internship at Microsoft, the claim may be more substantial than that of a 6-year-old who had just started attending primary school.
Parents may generally seek medical expenses that their child incurred immediately before his or her death. These include the ambulance ride, emergency surgery, life support, and similar costs deriving from their medical care. Parents may also be compensated for the loss of consortium, which includes non-tangible factors such as the loss of a relationship and the like. Essentially, this aspect of compensation tries to compensate for the loss of joy the child provided to the parents. Parents may also seek recovery for their own grief. Thus, a successful wrongful death claim may compensate for parents’ counseling, psychological treatment, and psychological medication.
Legal Time Limits
Each state has what is called a statute of limitations or time limit to file a lawsuit. In most states, you must file a wrongful death claim within two years of your child’s death for a court to even consider your claim. Note that there some states that only give you one year and some that may give you three years.
Understand that in certain cases, you may have to file a wrongful death claim even sooner. To better understand the time limits surrounding your claim, speak to an experienced attorney.
OUR WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEYS WILL FIGHT FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY
If your child was killed due to the negligent actions of another, the wrongful death attorneys at Zinda Law Group may help you seek justice and compensation for medical and funeral expenses, lost financial support, loss of love and companionship, grief and anguish, and much more. Our firm also works on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing unless we win your case. That’s our no-fee guarantee.