What to do if your loved one dies in a Missouri car wreck 

Losing a loved one in an accident is tragically devastating. The grieving process is difficult enough but there are also added issues with which you are faced during this stressful time.  One immediate concern are the financial hurdles of covering medical bills, final expenses and lost income.  If your family member died in a car accident, it’s important that you make informed decisions that best serve you and your family to preserve your rights related to the wrongful death of your loved one.  Unfortunately, these decisions will need to be made as soon as possible after the accident. 

  1. Statute of Limitations:  While every state has different laws surrounding a wrongful death claim due to an accident, all states have a specific time limit within which you must file your claim for your loved one’s wrongful death. This is called the Statute of Limitations. In Missouri, the Statute of Limitations is only three (3) years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against any party or entity which you intend to hold financially responsible for the injury sustained in a fatal car accident.  If a lawsuit is not timely filed, you will forever waive your right to obtain a recovery for the harm caused to your loved one and your family. Do not delay taking steps to protect your rights and those of your family. Because this timeframe to file a claim for wrongful death is limited, it’s very important to seek out a qualified wrongful death attorney to file your claim as soon as possible after the accident.  
  2. Important factors pertaining to car accident victims:
  • Secure records. It’s important that all records regarding the accident be secured by you or your attorney very soon after the accident. This will ensure that evidence won’t be lost, and important witness statements can be preserved. 
  • Police Investigation. The police can wrongly blame a decedent for an accident. Because they can no longer speak for themselves, the loved ones they leave are often at a disadvantage. Your lawyer must have experience reconstructing an accident so the decedent’s story can be re-told.   
  • Insurance Company Response. Because fatality claims are serious and can result in the recovery of a very substantial amount of money, insurance companies will try to protect themselves first and deny their responsibility for the accident. 
    Your lawyer must be well versed in how to deal with aggressive insurance companies 
  • Accident Reconstruction. In a wrongful death claim involving a fatal car accident, there are many cases where your lawyer should hire an accident reconstruction expert to review all the documentation, and come up with their own independent opinion as to how the accident occurred. These experts can be very expensive, especially when they are some of the most respected experts in their field. 
  • Witness Statements. As time passes, memories can fade, and some of the witnesses to the accident may not remember all the details clearly or accurately. It’s vital that your attorney have the ability to interview these witnesses shortly after the accident while their memories are fresh, and to preserve their eyewitness accounts to be used in trial, should your case not settle out of court. Be sure your lawyer works with top-notch investigators to find every witness who can help them figure out what really happened. 
  • Attorney Investigation.  Even if your loved one was blamed for an accident, you should still hire an experienced attorney to conduct an independent investigation. Make sure that your lawyer will not charge you if they cannot prove that the accident was the fault of another and recover money for you. Your lawyer should advance all of the expense of investigating your loved one’s accident. These costs should only be reimbursed if your lawyer goes forward with representing the estate of your loved one and recovers money for you and your family.  This process may help answer questions for the grieving family. 

3. Caused by Someone Else. In order for a family to recover money in a wrongful death claim, the accident would have had to be caused by someone other than your loved one who died in the accident. This could be the driver of another vehicle, the auto maker, or the driver of the car your loved one was riding in. In other words, someone other than the deceased had to have acted in a negligent manner to have caused the accident.

4.Sufficient Insurance. Many wrongful death claims from fatal car accidents are not properly compensated due to the at-fault driver having inadequate insurance. Your attorney must know where to look for any available insurance or other assets from which to recover the full value of your wrongful death claim. Even if the driver of another vehicle was at fault but was uninsured, there are quite a few other parties your lawyer should consider in order to recover the compensation that your family is entitled to. Some examples are: 

  • Under-insured or Uninsured Insurance: Your loved one may have insurance that protects them or their loved ones from being injured or killed by an uninsured or underinsured driver. 
  • Automobile Manufacturer: If the car your family member died in failed to adequately protect them, your family can recover compensation from the manufacturer of that automobile. 
  • Dramshop or Over-service of Alcohol Insurance for Bars and Restaurants: If your family member was killed by a drunk driver, you may be able to recover money from the bar or home where they were last served alcohol. 

Contact an experienced Missouri wrongful death attorney to guide your family through this difficult process as soon as possible to prevent the destruction of crucial evidence.