Drunk Driving Wrongful Death Claims

Last updated on: April 25, 2022


Drunk driving accidents affect more than just the parties involved in the wreck.  The consequences of these preventable accidents include property damage, fines, and jail time.  When the accident results in the death of another, lives are shattered.  Surviving family members of the decedent may be able to hold the at-fault party responsible by filing a wrongful death claim. If you have experienced the death of a loved one due to a drunk driving accident and are interested in filing a claim, call Zinda Law Group’s drunk driving wrongful death attorneys at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation.


Drunk driving is one of the most preventable causes of death throughout the United States.   Given the widespread accessibility to popular rideshares, such as Uber and Lyft, it makes no sense to get behind the wheel after drinking.  Listed below are several sobering statistics regarding drunk driving throughout the nation.
  • Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 50 minutes
  • Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 29% of the total vehicle traffic fatalities in 2018
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 36,560 people died in traffic crashes in 2018 in the United States, including an estimated 10,511 people who were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal BAC
  • Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes
  • Of the 1,233 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2016, 214 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver
  • In 2010, the most recent year for which cost data is available, drunk driving deaths and damages contributed to an annual cost of $44 billion


A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim brought by the surviving members of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death.  Grounds for a wrongful death claim may exist when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person.  A wrongful death lawsuit, if successful, can provide financial compensation in the form of damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.  In addition to drunk driving accidents, other common cases involving wrongful death include workplace accidents, aviation accidents, product liability claims, and medical malpractice. In general, any fatality caused by the wrongful acts of another may result in a wrongful death claim.  Although the precise elements of a wrongful death claim may vary by state, the essential elements that comprise a wrongful death claim typically include:
  • A death;
  • Caused by the wrongful conduct of the defendant;
  • Giving rise to a cause of action the deceased could have pursued if the death had not occurred;
  • Survival by one or more persons who have suffered a loss as a result of the death; and
  • Damages that can be recovered by the estate
The damages that may be available in successful wrongful death cases also vary by state, with the types and amounts of compensation depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. As an example, the following types of damages may be available in successful wrongful death claims:
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Reasonable medical, nursing, and other health care expenses related to the deceased person’s final injury or illness
  • The value of support and services the deceased provided to family members
  • The value of parental nurturing, care, and guidance to surviving children
  • Wages and benefits lost between the deceased person’s final injury or illness and his or her death
  • Loss of inheritance suffered by surviving children
  • Conscious pain and suffering endured by the deceased due to the final injury or illness
Under certain circumstances, punitive damages may also be available. Unlike typical compensatory damages, which are intended to make a party whole, punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer for intentional or severely reckless acts. It is important to note that although the circumstances of a case may prompt law enforcement and prosecutors to criminally charge a defendant, a civil wrongful death action may still be pursued in civil court. However, the interaction of criminal and civil cases arising from the same occurrence may pose difficult legal issues, such as when the suit must be filed. For this reason, it is worth discussing your options with an experienced wrongful death attorney.


Individual state laws govern drunk driving wrongful death lawsuits.  As a result, the party or parties that may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim depends on the jurisdiction.  In general, a representative of the decedent or the decedent’s estate must file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the real parties in interest—that is, the survivors who suffer damage from the decedent’s death. The representative is usually the executor of the decedent’s estate but can be a person or entity designated by the decedent’s last will and testament.  Alternatively, the person may be designated by state law.  For instance, some states designate the surviving spouse as a party with standing to file a wrongful death claim.  The “real parties in interest” vary from state to state. Some of those people may include immediate family members like spouses and children.  Some states allow more distant family members, such as brothers, sisters, and grandparents, to bring wrongful death claims. If you are considering filing a wrongful death claim, consider consulting with a wrongful death attorney before taking any formal legal action.  An attorney may be able to determine whether you are eligible to file a claim and may provide helpful advice regarding how to best protect your legal rights.


1. Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney

If you are a party with standing to file a wrongful death claim and are interested in taking legal action, your first step should be to contact a wrongful death attorney.  A wrongful death attorney may wish to speak with you in person or over the phone to review the facts and circumstances of your case.  During this meeting, the attorney will ask important questions such as when the death occurred, how it occurred, and whether there were any witnesses or police reports filed.  From there, the attorney may be able to assess the viability of your claim and provide legal advice regarding possible courses of action.

Read More: What to Do After Being Involved in a Drunk Driving Accident

2. Investigation

After an initial consultation, the wrongful death attorney may wish to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter to strengthen your claim.  For example, the attorney may interview parties with knowledge of the accident.  The attorney may also review insurance policies to determine which losses are covered.  The attorney will also review important and relevant documents such as medical records, police reports, work-logs, and surveillance footage.

3. Settlement and Lawsuit

After the investigation, the wrongful death attorney may contact you to review your legal options.  If the case is strong, a claim may be brought by filing the necessary documents.  The remainder of the process may consist of more investigation into the facts of the case.  Investigations and depositions may be conducted up until the time of trial, unless the parties reach a settlement.  If a settlement is offered, the attorney may act on your behalf by reviewing and negotiating the terms of the settlement with the other party.  If it is not in your best interests to accept a settlement offer, your case may proceed to trial. It is also important to remember that wrongful death claims are subject to legal time limits known as a “statute of limitations.”  This means that a party wishing to file a wrongful death claim must do so in a timely manner or else the claim may be barred from being litigated in court.  Most states have a two- or three-year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims.  Because the statute of limitations is a critical factor that can diminish or even destroy the value of a claim, consider consulting with a wrongful death attorney as quickly as possible after an accident.


At Zinda Law Group, our nationwide wrongful death attorneys have years of experience litigating and resolving wrongful death cases.  Our team has the resources necessary to help build the strongest claim following the death of a loved one.  Our dedicated attorneys help grieving family members seek fair compensation for their losses. If you would like to discuss the details of your drunk driving wrongful death case with an experienced lawyer, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation. Meetings with attorneys are by appointment only.