One of life’s greatest tragedies is the untimely loss of a loved one. Families and survivors are left to cope with the personal trauma of the death, and often, substantial financial expenses as well. Operating a motorcycle is inherently dangerous: in a crash, the rider lacks the same protection around them that other vehicles provide. Motorcycles are also more difficult to identify on the road than a large vehicle, and combined with the epidemic of distracted driving, the average motorcyclist faces a substantial risk of harm every time they pull into traffic.
Taking Care of Your Family
Taking care of your family after a tragic loss is vital. While no amount of money can ever replace your loss, holding those accountable for the accident can substantially alleviate the financial strain placed on families in the wake of an accident. If you have been approached by an insurance company to accept a settlement payment, it’s wise to wait to take any action until you’ve spoken with an experienced wrongful death attorney. Please call us at 1 (800) 636-0808 for a free consultation.
A Rise in Motorcycle Fatalities
Unfortunately, Indiana has witnessed a major increase in the number of motorcycle fatalities, according to the most recent report published by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. That report shows a 44 percent increase in fatalities from 2016-2017:
The 144 deaths in 2017 are an increase from 100 fatalities in 2016, and the most motorcyclist deaths in Indiana since 2012.
The law provides recourse for victims and their families in the wake of a motorcycle death. Indiana law allows a victim’s surviving family to proceed with a wrongful death claim, and recover monetary damages to cover both expenses incurred because of the crash, as well as compensation for pain, suffering, and loss of income.
The law also states that any claim must be filed within two years of the incident; beyond this, waiting too long to act can mean evidence is lost, witnesses’ recollection is impaired, and the overall strength of a case can be substantially reduced. Understandably, the first thing a grieving family needs to do is to heal from their loss: nevertheless, pursuing a civil remedy in a timely manner is both prudent and necessary.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Indiana, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the legal representative of the deceased’s estate, most often their next of kin such as a spouse, adult child, parent, or sibling.
Caps on Financial Awards
This is a brief summary of the limits on financial awards in a wrongful death case. You should always speak with one of our attorneys before making any decisions:
- If the deceased was an adult with a spouse or surviving children, there is no limit on damages. The final amount, if awarded, will be based on the details of the case such as medical bills, lost wages, etc.
- If the deceased was a child (under the age of 20, or under 23 if enrolled in college), there is also no limit on damages.
- If the deceased person was an adult (at least 23 years of age), unmarried, and had no minor children, non-economic (e.g., pain and suffering) damages are capped at $300,000. Reimbursement for related medical, funeral, burial and attorney fees can be awarded in addition to the $300,000 limit.
- In medical malpractice cases, there is a cap of $1,250,000 applicable to all claims.
There is also a governmental exception to the above rules. When filing a wrongful death claim against a government entity such as the state of Indiana, a city, town, or school, the law imparts a cap of $700,000 in damages.
Steps in the Wrongful Death Process
There are several steps to bringing a wrongful death proceeding, but the end result doesn’t always mean going to trial. The law is complicated, and needs to handled by experienced and knowledgeable attorneys who specialize in the area:
- There may be a criminal component to your case; for example, in the case of drunk driving. That litigation is separate and distinct from a wrongful death case. The eventual outcome of a criminal prosecution does not have a direct bearing on the outcome of a wrongful death case. In fact, there have been several high-profile national cases where the criminal litigation ended in an acquittal, but the subsequent wrongful death suit was successful.
- Our highly experienced wrongful death attorneys can gather all the information about the accident and all those involved. There may be more than one responsible party in the accident, and imparting liability can become a complex undertaking.
- Our team is skilled in both trial practice and out-of-court negotiation. Defendants or insurers may wish to settle outside of the courtroom; we can advise you whether we believe the offer to be fair, and the decision always remains with the client.
- If no appropriate resolution comes from direct negotiations, we are prepared to bring the case to trial. Defendant insurers often boast large and well-funded legal teams: it’s vital to retain an experienced attorney who knows how to fight back.
What Does It Cost to Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney?
We believe that justice is the right of all Americans, regardless of income. We offer free consultations for the families of wrongful death victims, and represent clients on a contingency fee basis—this means we only collect our fee as a portion of a successful settlement or judgment obtained on your behalf. We are prepared to hold liable parties accountable, negotiate aggressively on our clients’ behalf, and ensure our clients’ best interests are at the forefront of any action. This is one of the reasons so many choose our law firm when they need an Indianapolis personal injury attorney.
If you’d like to learn more, or schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys, contact the law offices of William H. Hurst at (317) 636-0808.