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What Happens After a Fatal Car Accident?

In Utah, someone dies in a car accident every 36 hours. In 2017, a total of 272 people lost their lives in fatal Utah vehicle accidents. Losing a loved one in an auto accident is a tragedy. The aftermath of a fatal accident can be difficult to navigate as a surviving family member. Knowing what to expect in terms of insurance claims, benefits that may be available, and your legal rights in the face of wrongful death can help you make the best choices for your family during this tough time.

Does Car Insurance Pay for Death?

Filing a car insurance claim is one of the first steps to take after a fatal car accident. You may need to file one on your loved one’s behalf. Utah is one of 12 no-fault insurance states. Insurance claims go to the victim’s insurance company, regardless of fault. As a surviving family member, you will bring your initial claim with the victim’s own insurance company. Follow the instructions for filing the claim, but do not admit your loved one’s fault for the wreck. You generally have 90 days after the car accident to file your claim; however, deadlines differ across companies.

The insurance company will appoint a claims adjuster and investigators to the fatal accident case. They may ask witnesses questions, or ask for supporting evidence such as medical records and photographs of property damage. The insurance company may then offer insurance death benefits to surviving dependents. Some companies have a separate category for these benefits, complete with different time limits. Ask your insurance company for the details on a fatal accident claim.

If the insurer accepts the claim, a surviving spouse, parents (of a minor child), or the individual’s estate could receive death benefits from the insurance company. These benefits are optional in Utah, and will only arise if the policyholder had purchased them for an additional premium. Car accident death benefits will typically cover deaths resulting from injuries incurred on the job, as well as deaths to a policyholder’s dependents. The benefits received depend on the individual losses and the specifications of the policy.

How to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Utah?

You and your family may have grounds to file a wrongful death claim against one or more parties after a fatal car accident. In Utah, someone can file a wrongful death claim if the wrongful or negligent act of one person causes the death of another. If the other driver involved in the wreck is guilty of drunk driving, driver distraction, or breaking a roadway rule, surviving family members may be able to file a civil claim. The heirs of the deceased person or the representative of his or her estate may file a claim.

A wrongful death lawsuit may be in your family’s best interests if a negligent or reckless party caused the fatal car accident. Your family could receive greater compensation from a civil claim than an insurance claim alone. A successful case could result in payment for reasonable funeral and burial costs, medical expenses, lost wages, loss of care, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. You have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit before forfeiting your claim to damages.

Utah’s no-fault based insurance laws strip crash victims from the right to file civil lawsuits unless injuries surpass a certain threshold. Victims and family members may only file lawsuits against at-fault drivers outside the no-fault system in serious injury cases, such as those that cause catastrophic or permanent injuries. A fatal accident reaches this threshold and gives family members the right to bring lawsuits outside of the insurance system. Speak to a Salt Lake City wrongful death lawyer if you think you have the elements of a case.

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