How to Sue for Wrongful Death After a Car Accident in Salt Lake City
Losing a loved one in a car accident is a horrible tragedy – one that should never have happened in the first place. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, financial compensation may be the last thing on your mind. However, if the deceased was a spouse or parent who provided your family’s income, you may need to consider your options to sue for their death.
Salt Lake City wrongful death attorney Darwin Overson represents the family of those who died in tragic accidents and fights to get them compensation for their loss. If your loved one died in a car accident, call our office today to begin the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
In order to start your wrongful death case, you must first be able to sue for the loss of a loved one under Utah law. While there may be many important people in our lives that we consider family or loved ones, Utah’s law limits who may sue. However, just because you aren’t on the list does not immediately stop your case. Talk to an attorney about other potential options for compensation for your loved one’s death.
Utah, like many states, has a “wrongful death” statute that outlines who can sue for wrongful death. Utah Code § 78B-3-106 states that any heirs or a personal representative can file for lawsuit. The personal representative might be someone appointed in the deceased’s will or by a court. Alternatively, there is a list of “presumptive personal representatives” below, who may be able to file without a will or court appointment.
Utah Code § 78B-3-106.5 states that any “presumptive personal representative” can file with insurance, rather than suing in court. This includes any of the following people:
- The deceased’s spouse. If the spouse is living, they are the only one who is able to file.
- If there is no spouse, the spouse is already deceased, or the spouse is unable to sue, the deceased’s children can sue.
- If there are no spouses or children able to sue, then a surviving parent can sue for wrongful death.
This lawsuit or insurance filing is brought on behalf of all of the deceased’s legal heirs. Heirs, for the purpose of this statute only includes spouses, children, parents (adoptive or natural), and stepchildren. Only if none of these parties are available, Utah’s “intestacy” statute takes over. This statute has the rules regarding how someone’s estate passes if they die without a will.
Under the wrongful death statute, the beneficiaries of a wrongful death suit may not include other parties appointed in a will. This means that girlfriends/boyfriends or fiancé(e)s might not be able to seek benefits. However, Utah’s intestacy statute may include nieces/nephews, siblings, and grandparents who might rely on the deceased’s income.
Filing a Lawsuit for Car Accident Deaths
The Utah Code also gives the rules for when and how to file a lawsuit for an accidental or wrongful death. Keep in mind that an attorney can help you with this. There is no expectation that the average person must file lawsuits on their own, and hiring a lawyer can help make the entire process much easier. Especially if you are grieving, it might be in your best interests to let someone else handle these kinds of details.
First, the law has a time limit for when you are able to file. If you are planning on using insurance claims, you must wait 45 days before you can file. However, these insurance settlements are usually limited and might not cover all of your needs. Instead, talk to an attorney about your right to take the case to court. To file a lawsuit, you must do so within two years of the death.
By filing a wrongful death suit, you may be able to recover compensation for a broad range of damages. In Utah, there is no legal limit or “cap” on the damages you could receive, meaning a jury can award you as much money as they see fit. This could include payments for the following, and other areas:
- Direct compensation for the death;
- The deceased’s lost wages;
- The deceased’s lost benefits (e.g. healthcare, insurance, etc.);
- Inheritances the deceased would have been entitled to;
- Burial and funerary costs;
- Compensation for the lost companionship, counsel, society, etc.;
- Grief counseling for survivors; and
- The deceased’s medical expenses and pain and suffering before death.
Talk to an attorney about what specific damages may be available in your case.
Lastly, Utah is a “no fault” car insurance state, which often puts limits on when you can sue. However, death is always one of the conditions that lets you take your case to court instead of relying on insurance. Don’t believe an insurance company if they tell you you can’t sue; talk to an attorney right away.
Salt Lake City Car Accident Death Attorney
Darwin Overson of Overson Law, PLLC has been practicing personal injury law for over 30 years. For a free consultation with an experienced Salt Lake City personal injury attorney, call (801) 895-3143 today.