After losing a loved one in a motorcycle accident, you could be facing many challenges on top of dealing with the grief of your loss. You might wonder if you can sue for wrongful death in a motorcycle accident claim. Eligible family members who lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence can typically seek compensation through a wrongful death claim.
The specific laws for these legal actions vary by state, however. A wrongful death lawyer can clarify who is an eligible beneficiary and who could bear liability for your loved one’s accident.
What a Wrongful Death Claim Means
Most state laws say that if a person passes away from their injuries because of the wrongful actions of someone else, the legal beneficiaries can file a wrongful death action against the liable party. If the decedent could have filed a personal injury claim against the person who wrongfully caused the accident or incident, had the decedent survived their wounds, the family can file a wrongful death action.
Let’s say that the driver of a car was speeding, lost control because of the high rate of speed, and struck a motorcycle. The motorcycle rider suffered catastrophic injuries. If the motorcyclist survives their wounds, they could file a personal injury claim against the negligent driver. Unfortunately, if the motorcycle rider passes away from their injuries, the family can file a wrongful death action.
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Wrongful Conduct as Used in Cases of Wrongful Death
The wrongful conduct must have been committed by someone other than the decedent. Most state laws say that a wrongful death results from the wrongful act or negligence of another person.
In the context of a wrongful death resulting from a motorcycle crash, the wrongful act would be another driver’s negligence. That may include reckless driving, speeding, being distracted, being intoxicated, or any other act of negligent driving that caused the collision. Most motor vehicle accidents are the result of a driver’s negligence.
It is possible for an intentional or criminal act, like road rage that escalates to violence, to lead to a wrongful death action under state law. The family still has the right to pursue financial compensation for their losses when a state prosecutor files criminal charges against the person who committed the wrongful act.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
Again, every state has its own specifications. But many state laws say that these people can file wrongful death claims:
- The surviving spouse and child or children of the decedent can receive the proceeds of the wrongful death case.
- If there were no survivors in that category, the surviving parent or parents of the deceased person can receive compensation.
- Other surviving heirs can receive the proceeds of a wrongful death claim if there are no survivors in the first two categories.
Sometimes, the people closest to a person who passes away in a motorcycle crash are not related to them by blood or marriage. If you have questions about bringing a wrongful death claim as a result of a non-familial relationship, ask a wrongful death lawyer’s team to learn more.
The Burden of Proof in a Wrongful Death Case
One of the critical aspects of many wrongful death statutes is that the decedent must have had the legal right to bring a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived their wounds. To have that legal right, plaintiffs in a wrongful death claim must prove another party’s negligence based on specific forms of evidence.
If we allege wrongful death liability based on negligence, we will have to prove all of these elements:
- The defendant (the person liable for the accident and wrongful death claim) had a legal duty toward the decedent. So, in this case, everyone who operates a motor vehicle has a legal duty to obey traffic laws and drive safely.
- The defendant breached their duty of care. Let’s say that the defendant was a drunk driver. Driving while impaired by alcohol violates the duty to obey traffic laws and drive safely.
- The negligent conduct caused the accident that injured the decedent. Because of their intoxication, the defendant crashed into the motorcycle driven by the decedent.
- The decedent’s family suffered losses as a result of the accident. In our scenario, the motorcyclist’s family faced financial and non-financial hardships—such as pain and suffering and lost income—as a result of their sudden loss.
When you can prove all four of these factors, you can establish the legal liability of the defendant. If the deceased person had lived, they could have filed a personal injury claim against the negligent party. Because the decedent passed away, the legal beneficiaries can step into those shoes and hold the liable party accountable for the consequences of their wrongful actions.
If your family could be entitled to bring a wrongful death case, take action as soon as you can. Most states limit the time you have to file a lawsuit. If you miss this deadline, you could be unable to get compensation even if you have a strong case.
Many wrongful death law firms offer free consultations. Consider contacting a lawyer to learn more about your options and the next best steps to seek justice.