What You Should Do When A Family Member Dies in A Car Accident

According to recent news articles there are fewer road fatalities than ever. Experts attribute this to a number of factors including safer cars, the wearing of seat belts, tough enforcement of driving while intoxicated and speeding laws, and graduated driver's licenses for teenagers. Still from 2005 through 2009, 1,467 people died of traffic related accidents in New York City. Of those, 770 were pedestrians. 150 of the 770 pedestrians killed were determined to have the right of way. In 2009, 149 people died in car accidents in Suffolk County, and 88 people in Nassau County. If a family member dies in a car accident, an attorney should be contacted as soon as possible. Here is a checklist of what to do: 1) If the police have not been notified, call the police. If possible find out the name of the police officer and precinct in charge of the investigation. 2) Call an attorney. An attorney with experince in handling motor vehicle death cases will be able to advise you and protect your rights while you take care of necessary personal arrangements during this time of loss. 3) If you are in control of the car, do not sell it or turn it over to an insurance company until it has been inspected and photographed by someone chosen by your attorney's office. An accident reconstruction expert retained by your attorney will be in the best position to form an opinion on how the incident happened if he can measure, inspect and photograph points of impact and damage to the vehicle. Inspection of the tires, brakes, headlights, mirrors, etc. will help detemine if everything was in good working order. The vehicle's "black box" will show the speed of the vehicle and if passengers were wearing seat belts, among other information. There may be a product liability case against the manufacturer of the car or a part, but it is necessary to have the car or part to determine if such is the case. If the car is not in your control, an attorney on your behalf can still have it inspected, if it has not yet been destroyed. Again, time is of the essence. 4) If you are not the owner of the car do not speak to the insurance adjustor for the car(s) involved until you speak to an attorney. An insurance adjustor will try to obtain evidence from you that will try to use to reduce compensation. If you are the owner a car involved in the accident you will have to timely inform your insurance carrier of the incident. 5) Record the names and contact information of anyone who tells you they were a witness to the incident, or may have information about what happened, or the events that led up to the accident. 6) Record the names and contact information of people who knew the victim and who could provide testimony as to work history, student achievements, services provided, earnings or earning potential, etc. 7) Keep a record of all money spent on funeral arrangements. 8 ) Don't delay. Your attorney will likely need to have an administrator appointed to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the estate. Also, as time goes on memories fade, witnesses become harder to locate, and evidence such as skid marks or the vehicles themselves disappear. 9) Be aware of statutes of limitations, within which time a lawsuit must be brought. In New York, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two (2) years from the date of death. Such is shorter than a claim for personal injuries, which is 3 years from the date of the incident. Also If there is a claim against a municipality (e.g a claim of a poorly designed road or negligently maintained road, or a vehicle involved was owned by a municipality, school district, public authority, etc.) a notice of claim may have to be filed within a short amount of time (e.g. as little as 90 days) to preserve the claim. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us. - Marc Miner, Esq. Zalman & Schnurman is a New York law firm that concentrates in personal injury actions such as construction accidents, motor vehicle accidents, bicycle accidents, premises liability, trip and falls, slip and falls, snow and ice cases, medical malpractice, traumatic brain injuries, etc. Learn more at www.1800Lawline.com, or contact us at 1-800-LAWLINE, or 1-800-529-5463 New York City, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, Rockland County. The information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not meant as legal advice or to cover all possible facts or factors. An attorney should be consulted to discuss specific facts and laws.

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