Why Proving Negligence Is Important in a Fatal Crash

Written by Steven Matz on . Posted in , .

You never expect to lose a loved one in a fatal accident, but it happens to people like you every day. It can be very hard during a time of grief to divide your attention so that you can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party.

It becomes even more frustrating when the time comes to prove that someone else was responsible for your loved one’s death, and the insurance company is trying to blame the deceased. The Michigan wrongful death attorneys at Matz Injury Law are here to help you fight for your rights and get you the financial compensation you deserve after losing a loved one.

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How to Prove Negligence in a Fatal Car Accident

The core element of every personal injury claim, including car accidents and wrongful death claims, is negligence. Negligence is a legal term that essentially means that someone was grossly irresponsible and caused harm to someone else. There are three factors your personal injury lawyer must demonstrate to prove negligence.

Breach of Duty

Everyone who drives a car has a duty of care to operate their vehicle safely. This means obeying traffic signs, driving the proper speed for weather conditions, and exercising all reasonable care. When someone fails in this responsibility, they breach their duty of care.

Causation

Next, it is necessary to demonstrate causation. This means that the breach of the duty of care in the wrongful death case led to the accident in some way. The cause of the accident need not even be direct. If a driver runs a red light and strikes another car, they are directly responsible for the accident. If, however, a negligent driver runs a red light, causing the other driver to swerve and strike a telephone pole, the driver running the red light can still be held accountable for causing the accident.

You may hear terms like “actual” and “proximate” cause used. Together, these mean that the negligent driver’s actions led to the accident and that the injuries would not exist if the accident had not happened. That is the core of causation.

Damages

Finally, you must prove that damages exist and that those damages were the direct result of the accident. Wrongful death damages include serious injuries and medical bills, but they can also involve funeral costs, property damage, and other types of damages.

If you are facing the complexities of a wrongful death action and are not sure how to proceed, a wrongful death lawyer at Matz Injury Law may be able to help. Contact our law firm at 1-866-22Not33 or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation, a case evaluation, and legal advice today.

Who Can Bring a Lawsuit Against the Liable Party?

A wrongful death claim in Michigan can only be brought by the estate of the deceased person, or decedent, on behalf of the surviving family members. If a will was left, any person named in the will as an heir of the estate can bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit.

Those named may be the victim’s family members, such as a surviving spouse, a domestic partner, stepchildren, or another loved one. Only the personal representative, or executor of the estate, can file the wrongful death claim.

What Damages Can Be Recovered From a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Surviving family members of the deceased can recover two main types of damages in wrongful death settlements, economic damages and non-economic damages. These combined can help you cover funeral expenses, burial expenses, lost wages, and other damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages include anything with a monetary value. They cover such matters as medical expenses, lost wages, funeral expenses, burial expenses, loss of financial support, and anything else that has a clear dollar value attached to it.

You may hear the term survival action used in conjunction with some economic damages. A survival action is a lawsuit that covers the deceased person’s injuries and medical costs leading up to their death filed at the same time as the wrongful death suit.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are generally referred to as pain and suffering. They are more subjective and are harder to value but are equally devastating. They cover things like loss of companionship, loss of consortium, loss of moral support, physical pain and suffering endured by the deceased person, loss of care, and any other intangibles that may come into play.

Many people ask about punitive damages. It is rare that these are awarded, and only in cases of extreme negligence like pure malice or drunk driving. If granted, punitive damages are non-economic in nature.

Who Pays Out the Damages in Wrongful Death Settlements?

The at-fault driver’s insurance company usually pays out the settlement after the conclusion of a wrongful death lawsuit. The insurance company will normally only pay out to the limits of the insurance policy, and then the at-fault driver is liable for the remainder of the damages.

What Happens If the Liable Party Does Not Have Insurance?

If the responsible party does not have liability insurance coverage, or their insurance policy does not cover the full value of the award, your loved one’s uninsured motorist coverage may pay the claim if they have it. Regardless of whether uninsured motorist coverage exists, you can still file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to be awarded damages in your case.

Do Not File a Lawsuit Alone

When you have to fight for compensation in your wrongful death case, it is essential to have someone knowledgeable about the laws surrounding these types of claims who knows what type of evidence to present. The right attorney can help you avoid critical mistakes like missing the statute of limitations, failing to file the correct paperwork, or even saying the wrong thing to the insurance provider.

Insurance companies are not your friend. They will pretend to be compassionate, but their real goal is to get you to sign off on as low a settlement as possible. If you sign their paperwork, you may sign away your rights to significant compensation. They might even try to blame your deceased loved one for the accident.

Michigan law has a concept called modified comparative negligence. Under this concept, the amount of compensation amount you can receive is reduced by the percentage of fault you hold in the accident. In a wrongful death case, the comparison would be between the defendant (the person you are suing) and the deceased. For example, if the case was worth $500,000 and the deceased was found to be 20% responsible, only $400,000 would be awarded.

Even worse, the modified comparative negligence rule states that if the victim was more than 50% responsible, they may be barred from collecting any compensation. It is, then, extremely important to prove that the breach of duty was entirely that of the defendant. This type of law applies only to car accidents, not to other cases like medical malpractice or defective products.

It is especially important for your personal injury lawyer to be well-versed in auto accident cases. The insurance company and the negligent driver will have lawyers in their corner. Should you not have someone there to protect your legal rights and give you the best shot at fighting back? Hiring a personal injury lawyer means you do not even have to speak to the insurance adjuster. You can let them handle the communications and the fight so you can take the time you need to grieve.

Give Yourself Time to Grieve. Let Us Handle the Lawsuit

At Matz Injury Law, we put our attorney-client relationship before everything else. Our only goal is to fight every step of the way for your legal rights to compensation for your lost family member. We bring decades of experience to the table and have won millions for clients over the years. We are ready to fight for you, protect your rights, and remind the at-fault party that your loved one is gone and that you are a victim of their reckless behavior.

We will take all the time we need to hear your case, get to know you as a person, and understand what you need. We are not just a law firm. We are a dogged ally and a compassionate ear when you need one the most. From helping you with the resources you need to grieve to fighting for every penny you deserve in your wrongful death lawsuit, we will be there every step of the way.

Do not try to go at it alone. Contact Matz Injury Law at 1-866-22Not33 or fill out our online contact form for a free case evaluation with no disclaimer today.

Written By Steven Matz

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury. Mr. Matz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high distinction and highest honors in 1974 from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor degree in 1977 from The George Washington University National Law Center. Mr. Matz lectures and publishes in a number of areas, including ethics, marketing, trial tactics, and head injury. Mr. Matz has served on the Michigan Association for Justice Executive Board and currently serves the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board as a Hearing Panel Chairman and Master. He is also a member of the State Bar Committee for Character and Fitness.
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The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 33 1/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

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We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 33 1/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients. 

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients.  We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims.  Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.

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