Published in Personal Injury by Chris Eskew on May 24, 2023.
If you lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, you might have questions about what happens after someone dies in a car accident in Indiana. Indiana law allows the personal representative of the adult who died to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages. Sometimes, a parent or guardian may file a wrongful death lawsuit if their child dies in a car accident. Doing so cannot bring back their loved one, but it can help to lift the burden and hold the negligent driver responsible for their actions. If your loved one died in a crash, a wrongful death lawyer can help you file an insurance claim and assert your legal rights under Indiana law.
The Eskew Law, LLC team supports family members whose loved ones were killed in car accidents. We understand the pain and anguish of losing a loved one and can help you traverse this unfamiliar legal landscape. We are here to fight for you and your family.
Common Events That Lead to a Fatal Car Accident
According to the Indiana University Public Policy Institute’s recent publication, 896 people were killed on Indiana’s roadways in 2020. Around 47% of the fatalities occurred in urban environments, with the next highest category—suburban—accounting for 25% of fatal crashes.
Driving while intoxicated contributed to 14% of all traffic fatalities in Indiana, and speeding played a role in 25% of all fatal crashes. The driver’s loss of control of the vehicle accounted for about 15% of all fatal accidents.
What Happens After Someone Dies in a Car Accident in Indiana?
Surviving family members may be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim against the person who caused the accident. Here are some steps to take after a fatal accident.
Filing an Insurance Claim on Behalf of Someone Who Died in an Accident
You or your attorney should contact the insurance company to ensure they know your loved one was in a fatal car accident. They will begin investigating the crash and may send you a settlement offer. Before you sign anything, talk to an injury attorney about your legal rights. The lawyer can also negotiate with the insurance company to maximize your compensation.
Evidence in a Fatal Car Accident Case
The police and insurance company will investigate the cause of the crash and the injuries. You and your attorney can also analyze the accident and interview witnesses to determine what occurred. Common sources of evidence in a fatal car accident case include photographs of the accident scene, vehicles, tread marks, and parties involved in the crash. Additional evidence includes medical records, financial statements, and witness testimony.
Bringing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against the Person Who Caused the Accident
Indiana law empowers people to sue negligent drivers who cause their loved one’s death. But before you file a lawsuit, there are some rules you should know about.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Indiana?
Indiana has special rules about who can file a wrongful death lawsuit and when. If the decedent (the person who died in the car accident) is an adult, the personal representative of their estate can file the lawsuit. The person’s will may name a personal representative. If they do not have a will, the Indiana default rules may determine who the personal representative is.
Indiana has different rules about who can file a lawsuit if the person is a child. If the child is under 20 years old, or if the child is under 23 and is going to college or trade school, the following people may file a lawsuit:
- The parents, either jointly or separately;
- The person who was awarded custody of the child (if the parents are divorced); and
- A guardian.
In some cases, to recover compensation, surviving family members must prove that they had a genuine, ongoing, and substantial relationship with the person who died. If you have questions about who can bring a lawsuit in your situation, contact an attorney. They can review your case and advise you on who can file the claim and when.
How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit Against the At-Fault Driver?
Indiana requires surviving family members to bring a wrongful death lawsuit within two years after their loved one’s death. Exceptions may apply that give you more or less time to file, so it is vital to talk to an attorney about it before making a decision.
Compensation in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
No amount of compensation can truly make up for the loss of a loved one. But Indiana’s wrongful death laws provide an avenue for the surviving family members to recover financially from what happened. Damages may include the following:
- Medical expenses,
- Funeral and burial costs,
- Loss of earnings,
- Loss of love, care, and affection,
- Costs of administrating the estate.
Whether the family can recover these damages (and how much) depends on whether their loved one was a dependent child or an adult at the time of the accident. Indiana imposes a damage cap of $300,000 for the loss of love and companionship to beneficiaries in cases where an un unmarried adult dies with surviving nondependent children and/or parents. The law does not limit the amount of damages the plaintiffs can recover for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and other basis of economic compensation.
Contact a Skilled Attorney Today!
When going through the trauma of losing a loved one, you count on the strength and knowledge of those around you to help you get through the difficult days. Holding the at-fault party accountable for what they did to your loved one and family can help you regain your strength and move forward. Instead of handling the legal aspects on your own while juggling your day-to-day obligations and grieving, you can enlist the help of an attorney.
At Eskew Law, we are fierce, loyal, and compassionate advocates. We respect our clients’ journeys and listen to their stories. Using our extensive knowledge of and experience with Indiana’s laws, we create a legal strategy that puts our clients’ interests at its heart. Past clients have praised our genuine nature and appreciated our true concern for their families.