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What Are the Odds of Dying in a Car Accident?

Are your odds of dying in a car accident higher or lower than your odds of dying from a fall? Does it matter whether you are a pedestrian or a motorcyclist? How can you know whether you are at risk of dying in a traffic accident?

Over 30,000 people die annually in motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Between 334 and 387 people have died each year in car crashes in Massachusetts since 2010. 

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), your odds of dying in a car accident are 1 in 107. Those are slightly better odds than the odds of dying in a fall (1 in 106). However, if you are a motorcyclist or pedestrian, your odds of dying in a traffic collision are significantly lower.

Motorcyclists have a 1 in 899 chance of dying in a motorcycle accident. Individuals have a 1 in 543 chance of dying in a pedestrian accident. That estimate was based on 2019 figures, even though pedestrian deaths have increased substantially during the past three decades. 

Who is Liable for a Traffic Death in Massachusetts?

The person who caused the car accident is generally liable for all damages caused by the crash, including wrongful deaths

Causes of fatal car crashes include, but are not limited to:

  • Following too closely, failing to yield the right of way, speeding, and disobeying other traffic laws
  • Distracted driving, including using a cell phone while driving
  • Driving when fatigued or drowsy
  • Reckless driving and road rage
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (impaired driving)

Road conditions and weather conditions might also be factors in car crashes. Additionally, defective car parts, such as defective tires or brake pads, could play a role in an accident. 

Before you can hold someone responsible for the death of your family member, you must prove the party caused the car wreck. 

Evidence that might prove fault for a deadly car accident includes:

  • Videos of the accident scene from traffic cameras and surveillance cameras
  • Copies of crash reports or police reports
  • Physical evidence gathered at the accident scene or from the vehicles
  • Information from data records and cell phone records
  • Statements made by the drivers and passengers
  • Testimony from eyewitnesses

Identifying how a car accident occurred and the party or parties responsible for the cause of the crash is the first step in seeking justice for the death of a loved one. 

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim for a Car Accident Fatality 

Negligence is the basis for most claims arising from a car accident, including a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death actions provide financial compensation for damages caused by the death of a family member. These claims are civil claims that are separate from any criminal charges.

The Massachusetts wrongful death statutes state that the personal representative for the deceased’s estate files the wrongful death lawsuit. The person’s Will names the person who serves in this role. If the deceased did not have a Will, the court names a personal representative for the estate.

Even though the estate files the wrongful death action, the proceeds from the lawsuit are paid to the heirs. Family members who might receive compensation for a wrongful death claim include the surviving spouse, children, parents, and siblings. Other family members might receive compensation if the deceased did not have any immediate family members.

What Types of Compensation Do Family Members Receive?

Wrongful death claims are different from other personal injury cases. The damages in a wrongful death action may not include all of the damages that someone could receive in other personal injury claims.

Family members may be entitled to receive compensation for:

  • Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of services provided by the deceased
  • Loss of companionship, protection, society, comfort, care, and guidance
  • Loss of future income the person would have contributed to the family had they lived
  • Pain and suffering

In some cases, the court may award punitive damages. However, punitive damages are rare and only awarded to punish conduct that is willful, malicious, reckless, or wanton. 

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for a Massachusetts Car Accident?

The Massachusetts statute of limitations sets the deadline for filing wrongful death lawsuits. In most cases, the deadline is three years after the person’s death. However, there are some exceptions. 

If the personal representative does not file a lawsuit within three years, the family loses the right to pursue legal action against the party who caused their loved one’s death. It is in your best interest to talk with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to avoid losing your legal rights. 

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