Fatal Car Or Truck Accidents: Top 4 Surprising Facts About Case Values
As an Orlando fatal auto accident lawyer, I can never say enough how every single call regarding a death under any circumstances is terrible. We regularly receive calls regarding fatal car and truck accidents. My first thought is always whether the person calling was close to the person they lost. When they were, I always start thinking about how life is so unpredictable, so unfair, and how much pain I would be feeling if the same thing happened to me.
But I am a lawyer. So I have to put on my lawyer hat, which means that I have to give advice about what legal options might at least bring financial relief. And, at least I figure, financial relief might eventually help with emotional healing — if only because having to survive, pay bills, and get through life can be next to impossible after losing someone you love. Of course, if you lost someone who was close to you, no amount of money will ever really help — and for that I am sorry.
If you have any question about the value of your fatal car or truck accident case, please call or text (407) 383-7290 immediately. If we can accept your case, an attorney will answer all of your questions about how best to maximize your case value.
After A Fatal Car Or Truck Accident, You Need A Wrongful Death Lawyer As Soon As Possible
If you tragically lost someone you love as a result of a fatal car or truck accident, there are a number of important things to consider. Ideally, we would talk to you very soon after the accident, so that we can preserve any necessary evidence. As an example, we might want to buy the vehicle, so that we can prove air bags didn’t properly deploy. We also might want or need to talk to any witnesses, or the police officers investigating the case. Our immediate job is to stop you from saying anything to an insurance company or witness that could hurt your case value, and gather evidence. We can do that job better the sooner we get involved. (However, even if a long time has passed, we still can get a high value for the case — as long as there is some way of proving who caused the accident.)
First Surprising Fact: Only Certain Relatives Can Recover The Full Case Value
The first thing to consider is WHO can recover for losing someone after a car accident. A girlfriend or boyfriend cannot. The rules get somewhat complicated — generally a spouse or children can recover, although the amount of recovery varies depending on their age and connection (closeness) to the person who died. Close spouses and children under 25 will recover the highest value. For children over 25, if there is NOT a surviving spouse, they can still recover a high value (subject to insurance limits; see below). If there IS a surviving spouse, then children over 25 would need to be totally financially dependent, and unable to work, to recover any money. Very rarely, financially dependent blood relatives can also recover (must be 1o0% financially dependent, and in true need of support, like a totally disabled person). You can read more about WHO can recover here.
Second Surprising Fact: Case Value Is (Usually) Totally Dependent On Insurance Coverage
Recently, we have settled one wrongful death case for 20K, another for 75K, another for 100K, and another for 2 million (those were all before any attorneys’ fees or costs were deducted). What was the difference? Well, believe it or not, the ONLY meaningful / case value difference was the amount of insurance coverage. Those were the ALL the policy limits of the defendant drivers, combined with uninsured motorist coverage. In other words, there was no more money available from any source. The defendants had no other assets, and all available combined insurance policies were those amounts. The 2 million dollar case happened to involve a semi-truck, so the policy limits were much higher than an average non-commercial automobile. Many non-commercial vehicles have insurance coverage ranging from 100K to 300K. Occasionally a non-commercial vehicle will have 1 million in available coverage. Commercial vehicles are usually (but not always) 1 million plus. But some non-commercial vehicles have no coverage at all (I still remember one call I received where a woman was, of course, completely devastated after losing her older but still hard-working father to a fatal auto accident in the wee hours of the morning on his way to work, coming around a blind curve. Unfortunately, we could not help her, because the defendant driver didn’t have a penny of insurance or assets.) Other non-commercial vehicles have lower amounts of coverage, like 50K to 100K.
There are also some Florida statutes (laws) that require, or don’t require, various amounts of insurance, depending on the type of vehicle, or type of accident. For example, because there is a Florida statute protecting lease holders (that’s the car dealership) from liability IF they require 100/300K in bodily injury insurance coverage, the vast majority of leased vehicles have at least that amount of coverage (sometimes more). (Bodily injury coverage is the amount available to pay for injuries caused to accident victims. The “100/300” is per person / per accident — meaning the maximum any one person can recover is 100K, and the maximum per accident is 300K.) There are other Florida and federal statutes requiring higher amounts of insurance coverage for semi-trucks. Motorcycle riders, and regular automobile drivers, aren’t required to have any bodily injury coverage, but many do.
There are also laws that require drivers to reject uninsured motorist coverage, in writing, whenever the person also purchases bodily injury coverage. We always request this written rejection anytime there is no UM coverage, but there is BI coverage.
Another wrinkle is that sometimes there can be coverage above the bodily injury coverage, but no one investigates to find that coverage. Or there might be a commercial policy for someone driving their personal vehicle for work. Of course, we carefully check all of those things. We have worked with clients who came from other law firms who did NOT check for all possible insurance policies. (We had one recent auto accident client come to us after working with a newer lawyer at a well-known local law firm, after they told him he could only receive 2K in recovery. We just settled one of his cases for 1 million (which was the policy limits), and are still pursuing a product defect case against the auto manufacturer because the air bags did not deploy in a brand new Nissan).
So, bottom line, we always carefully review the facts and law to verify whether there is any possibility of any additional coverage.
Believe it or not, even with lower policy amounts, we have to work hard to get the full amount. We have had great success getting the full policy limits for many of our wrongful death clients.
Third Surprising Fact: The Closeness Of Your Relationship Matters
Anytime there is a death, the value of the pain and suffering damages is VERY dependent on the closeness of the relationship between the person who died, and the person filing the lawsuit. If a spouse died, in a normal marriage, usually regular husband and wife arguments will NOT reduce the value of the case. But, if the person was completely estranged, or separated, then we have a more difficult job. However, there can still be a very high value, certainly worth pursuing, even for an estranged relationship. We just have to dig to discover whether there was any attempt at connecting, any personal visits, letters, or phone calls, and over what time period. We dig very hard to try to uncover the evidence that will help us prove the connection meant something important. As an example, we settled one case for just over 420K (policy limits 1M), even though the children had only once seen their father in 25 years or so. We were able to use other forms of communication and connection to prove the value of that case, and formulate a settlement strategy that worked to get the case settled very quickly. So, the value of the case is HIGHLY dependent on the specific facts of your case, which is why we conduct a detailed intake interview to determine how best we can help.
Fourth Surprising Fact: Insurance Companies Are NOT Your Friend
Unlike the insurance companies who provided great service to my parents and grandparents, today’s insurance companies have only ONE goal, and that’s to pay you the least amount of money possible. There have been books written about how the entire industry changed for the worse around the mid-1990s. Although adjusters will be nice, they will try to pay much less than they should. They do this by asking questions designed to get information that lowers your case value. So, please, do not talk to adjusters. You need a lawyer by your side before giving any statements.
If you have lost a loved one after a fatal car or truck accident, please call or text our office for an appointment. We make every effort to speak with new clients as soon as possible, so will meet the same day if at all possible. Our phone number is (407) 383-7290. We handle fatal auto accident cases all over Florida and Georgia.