Losing a family member in a pedestrian accident can be emotionally devastating. Although taking legal action won't bring your loved one back, the funds from a wrongful death settlement can help alleviate some of the financial strain you may experience as a result of the incident.
About Wrongful Death Claims for Pedestrian Accidents
Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than the occupants of passenger vehicles to be killed in a car crash. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States has a pedestrian fatality every 1.6 hours. Fatal accidents are most likely to occur at night, in urban areas, or in non-intersection locations. Victims are most often children or adults over the age of 65.
A wrongful death action alleges that a person has died due to the fault of another. Winning the case requires you to establish the following:
- The defendant owed the deceased person a duty of care.
- The defendant breached that duty of care.
- The breach of duty caused the death.
- The death caused the damages you want to recover.
In a pedestrian accident case, you typically must present evidence that the driver who struck and killed the pedestrian was operating his vehicle in a negligent and careless manner. This could include:
- Running a red light
- Texting and driving
- Drunk driving
- Driving despite a medical condition that impairs reflexes and coordination
Witness testimony, photos, accident reconstructions, and medical records are some of the types of evidence that might be presented. Expert testimony related to specific aspects of the case may also be required.
It is important to note that a wrongful death lawsuit is a type of civil action. This means, the only penalty the defendant faces is monetary in nature. However, some pedestrian accidents may involve both criminal and civil charges. In these cases, evidence from the criminal case can be used to support the civil wrongful death claim.
Eligibility to File a Wrongful Death Claim
Only certain family members can file a wrongful death claim after a fatal accident. Louisiana law states:
- If the deceased was married, the surviving spouse or children must file the claim.
- If the deceased was unmarried and not a parent, his surviving parents must file the claim.
- If there is no spouse, child, or parent to file, the surviving siblings of the deceased person can initiate the claim.
- If there is no surviving spouse, child, parent, or sibling, the surviving grandparents of the deceased person can file the claim.
- If there are no surviving family members, the deceased person's estate can bring the claim to court.
People related by adoption have the same legal rights as those related by blood or marriage. However, if a parent abandoned the deceased person during childhood, that parent forfeits the right to file a claim.
Damages Awarded in a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim includes damages for both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include:
- Medical expenses related to the deceased person's fatal injury
- Reasonable funeral and burial costs
- Lost wages and benefits
- Value of lost household services
- Bills for damaged property (if applicable)
Non-economic damages are those which can't be proven by producing a receipt or bill. This includes:
- Pain and suffering in the deceased person's final moments
- The family's loss of care, companionship, guidance, and emotional support as the result of the deceased person's death
- Punitive damages, which are rarely awarded but are intended solely to punish the defendant
Since wrongful death claims are based on the person's anticipated life expectancy, it's important to note that settlements are higher when the deceased person is a child or young adult.
How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help
There is a one-year statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim under Louisiana law. However, it's best to contact an attorney immediately. Evidence can be lost as time passes, so taking prompt legal action ensures that you have the highest possible chance of a fair settlement.
The attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault have extensive experience helping Louisiana residents take legal action after the wrongful death of their loved ones. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule your free consultation.