The loss of a loved one is a challenging, emotional experience, especially when you lose your loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful conduct. An unexpected tragedy can impact every facet of your life, from work performance to finances. While no amount of money can replace the love and support your loved one provided, a fatal car accident settlement can ease the financial stress created by the accident.
Fortunately, New Jersey allows specific individuals to seek compensation for their losses in the event that another person’s misconduct caused the death of their loved one. At O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, our New Jersey fatal accident attorneys are committed to providing the legal support you need to recover compensation for your losses.
Fatal Car Accidents in New Jersey
In 2020, New Jersey reported 550 fatal car accidents that resulted in 587 fatalities. In 2021, the number of fatal accidents increased to 668, and the number of fatalities increased to 698. So far, New Jersey has recorded 487 fatal accidents in 2022, along with 523 fatalities. Fatal crashes can happen for many reasons, including:
- Distracted driving,
- Drunk driving,
- Excessive speeding,
- Aggressive driving, or
- Failure to obey traffic signs and signals.
If your loved one died in a fatal car accident in New Jersey, you might qualify to file a wrongful death claim to recover losses you suffered due to your loved one’s death.
Who Can Bring a Fatal Car Accident Lawsuit?
While some states allow certain family members of a decedent to file a wrongful death claim, New Jersey does not. In New Jersey, a decedent’s personal representative files a wrongful death lawsuit. If the decedent had a will, it will likely name the personal representative. If the decedent died without a will, a judge will appoint an administrator who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Although the personal representative files the lawsuit, the lawsuit is brought on behalf of the decedent’s surviving family members who would inherit from the decedent through intestacy laws.
Damages in a Fatal Car Accident Settlement
In New Jersey, you can only recover pecuniary, or financial, losses in a wrongful death suit. Financial losses stemming from a fatal car accident typically include:
- The decedent’s loss of income,
- Reasonable funeral expenses,
- Medical expenses incurred by the decedent before their death, and
- Reasonable pecuniary losses.
You should retain records such as hospital bills, invoices, pay stubs, and other financial documents to help your attorney calculate your pecuniary losses. While you can claim the reasonable economic value for the loss of services, assistance, and companionship of the decedent, you cannot claim non-pecuniary damages like pain and suffering or emotional distress. We can consult with economic experts to calculate the settlement amount you deserve.
Factors that Affect a Settlement Amount
Every fatal car accident settlement varies based on the circumstances of the accident. For example, a settlement for a decedent who had a large salary at the time of their death will likely be higher than a settlement for a decedent who was working a part-time job at the time of their death.
Another factor that can affect a fatal car accident settlement is the decedent’s level of fault in the accident. New Jersey’s comparative negligence law reduces the award amount by the percentage of the decedent’s fault. That means if the court determines you are owed $100,000, but the decedent was 20% responsible for the accident, the award is reduced to $80,000.
The defendant’s level of insurance coverage can also affect the average settlement for a fatal car accident. The minimum car insurance requirement in New Jersey is:
- $15,000 bodily injury coverage per person per accident,
- Up to $250,000 in bodily injury coverage per person for certain types of injuries, and
- $5,000 property damage liability per accident.
However, this is the bare minimum of required coverage. Some drivers may choose to pay for enhanced insurance coverage. An attorney can help you deal with insurance companies after an accident and explain all of your legal options.
Statute of Limitations on a Fatal Accident Claim
The statute of limitations prevents a plaintiff from filing a lawsuit several years after an accident so that a defendant is not in constant fear of being haled into court. New Jersey imposes a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits. If you do not file your lawsuit within two years, the judge will likely dismiss your lawsuit. However, if the decedent’s death was caused by murder, aggravated manslaughter, or manslaughter, there is no statute of limitations. An experienced attorney can help you meet important deadlines, such as the statute of limitations, to make sure your rights are protected.
If You Have Questions About the Average Settlement for a Fatal Car Accident Claim, Contact O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble Today
There are several steps to bringing a successful wrongful death claim. You need to preserve evidence that proves the defendant’s guilt, demonstrate your family’s financial losses, determine the proper jurisdiction and venue, learn where to allocate potential proceeds, and verify that you are within the statute of limitations before you file your claim. Instead of handling the complicated process on your own, contact one of our experienced attorneys at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, and let our team take care of your legal needs.
We are committed to providing our clients with the highest level of legal advocacy. While a settlement will not bring back your loved one, it may help you grieve your loss at your own pace and relieve you of some of your financial hardship.
Seven of our attorneys were selected for the 2021 “New Jersey Super Lawyers and Rising Stars” lists. We are always just a phone call away, and we make it our mission to make sure our clients get the attention they deserve.
If you lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, there is no time to waste. Let us put our experience and skills to work for you. Contact our team of attorneys at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble to schedule a free initial consultation.