Making the Final Arrangements
Unfortunately, one of the hardest things you will have to do is to make funeral and burial plans for your deceased loved one. This is where a close friend or adult child can be a tremendous help and comfort to you, going with you and protecting you from unscrupulous mortuary workers. If you have made arrangements during your life, notify the mortuary and they will send a hearse to the Coroner's office to pick up the body. If the person was under a doctor's care at the time and died peacefully at home, there is usually no reason to call the Coroner's office. In such a situation, the mortuary should be called directly to pick up the remains. If you have a burial policy, notify the insurance company and they should take care of the costs.
Notify Your Insurance Agent
Notify your auto insurance agent of the fatal crash as soon as possible. If your loved one was driving the only vehicle you owned, your insurance agent can help you obtain a rental car. If you have to pay a deductible, that amount will be added to your claim. Your insurance agent can also open a file on your case, in the event you may have to file an uninsured or underinsured claim with your own insurance company.
Beware the Insurance Adjuster
When the other driver caused the accident that took your loved one's life, you can expect a telephone call in a week or two from the other party's insurance company's adjuster. Sometimes they will even contact you before the burial, offering to pay all expenses. Insurance company adjusters try to put on a facade of care and concern for you, when in fact they are cold-hearted people whose only job is to get the insurance company to pay as little as possible to settle the claim. No matter how hard the adjuster tries and how nice he or she is to you, do NOT let the adjuster take a recorded statement from you. Ideally, before you even talk to the other party's insurance adjuster, you will have retained a lawyer who is protecting your rights and advising you properly.
Retain an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
If your loved one's death was due to the carelessness ("negligence") of another driver, or the driver was driving while intoxicated or while under the effects of a drug (both legal and illegal), you should hire an experienced personal injury lawyer or law firm to handle the case for you. The sooner you contact the lawyer, the sooner he or she can get his or her investigator to the scene of the collision and take pictures of the vehicles before they are repaired or crushed at a junkyard. Additionally, it will give the investigator time to take the statements of witnesses while the events are still fresh in their minds.
What Kind of Damages Can the Survivors Recover?
If a person is killed in an automobile accident caused by another driver, the survivor(s) are entitled to recover monetary compensation for all medical expenses (including the cost of the ambulance), lost wages-past and future-loss of comfort, advice, companionship, and society, and all other legally-recognized damages. The survivors (next-of-kin) consist of the surviving spouse and minor children, and dependent adult children and parents.
Will the Lawyer Get the Lion's Share of the Settlement or Verdict?
The insurance company's adjuster may tell you not to get a lawyer because lawyers' fees are outrageously expensive and that's money that will be coming out of your share. The adjuster will tell you that the insurance company will treat you fairly and reasonably and "do right" by you. In truth, studies show that in cases involving serious injuries or death, the deceased person's next-of-kin end up with over three times the amount that they would have received had they not been represented by a lawyer and handled the matter themselves. The insurance adjuster will do anything he or she can to settle the claim as cheaply as possible, as the adjuster knows that his or her job hinges on the total amount of the settlements he or she has made over time.