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What Should You Do if Your Loved One Was Involved in a Fatal Accident on I-5 in Oregon

Losing a family member in a fatal Interstate 5 car accident is a traumatic experience. The grief and sorrow you feel can be compounded when you discover that the accident only occurred due to another driver’s negligence.

In spite of Oregon’s strict wrongful death laws, several hundred drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians are killed on roadways and highways throughout the state every year as a result of driver negligence.  For family members of the deceased victim, emotions can range from anger to heartache to deep concern about their financial future.

In a fatal car accident case in Oregon, the case has to go through probate before survivors can pursue a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver. This judicial process will decide which parties have survivor rights.

If the victim died intestate, meaning without a will to establish who the executor of the estate will be, then the court will select a personal representative. This is almost always a spouse, parent, child, or sibling.

If your family member died in a motor vehicle accident that was not their fault, you should contact an experienced Oregon wrongful death attorney as one of the first steps you take after losing your loved one. Our premier team here at I-5 Accidents can help make sure you get fully compensated for your loss by filing a wrongful death claim when the time is right.

In addition to contacting an attorney, there are some other steps you can take immediately to help ensure you have the strongest possible case in the event you decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit. They are:

  • Order a copy of the police report
  • Get your loved one’s medical records if you have the legal authority to do so
  • Gather any evidence related to the fatal accident, including photos and videos of the scene, statements from witnesses, any potential video footage from local residences or businesses, event data recorder information, and anything else you think could be relevant.
  • Start calculating your expenses so far, including funeral and burial expenses, probate expenses, medical costs, and lost wages.

 

 

When is a Fatal Car Accident Considered Wrongful Death? 

Oregon law states that a fatal vehicle accident is classified as wrongful death if the death occurred by “wrongful act or omission of another.” Where deadly car accidents are concerned, a wrongful death is one that was brought about by the deliberate, negligent, or reckless actions of another driver.

Wrongful deaths can occur in multiple scenarios, such as:

  • Car accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents

The primary difference between a wrongful death claim and a personal injury claim is that the victim’s death has left them unable to pursue legal action. If they would have had cause to take legal action, had they survived, their family members would most likely have a basis for filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

A Wrongful Death Claim is a Civil Suit

According to Oregon law, if the fatal collision was unintentional, the subsequent wrongful death case will be a civil suit. A civil case is distinct from a criminal case in two ways:

  • A surviving family member has to file the wrongful death claim themselves, unlike a criminal case which would be filed by a prosecuting attorney in the jurisdiction where the accident happened.
  • Liability in a wrongful death case is defined exclusively in terms of monetary damages. In a criminal case, penalties may include incarceration, fines, probation, and more.
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Suit?

Since the deceased is clearly unable to take legal action on their own behalf, the personal representative of the estate is entitled to bring a lawsuit for the benefit of a:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Surviving parent
  • Surviving child
  • Stepparent
  • Stepchild
  • Others entitled to inherit according to Oregon’s law of intestate succession

The personal representative of the estate is most commonly a family member appointed by the deceased before their passing.

Damages Available in an Oregon I-5 Wrongful Death Claim

Depending on the circumstances that led to the fatal accident, multiple forms of damages may be available. This includes reasonable damages for:

  • Hospital bills
  • Doctor appointments
  • Ambulance and paramedic services
  • Prescription medications
  • Additional medical services

These are damages your loved one incurred prior to their death. For instance, if they did not die in the accident but instead sustained an injury that led to their death, a wrongful death suit should take into account financial compensation for the medical expenses relating to their care before they died. You are also able to seek compensation for funeral and funeral or cremation costs.

Financial recovery may also be sought for:

  • Lost income and other financial benefits, such as health insurance
  • Pain, suffering, and inconvenience
  • Loss of fellowship

The victim’s spouse, parents, children, stepparents, and stepchildren might also be eligible to collect compensation for:

  • Pecuniary loss: Pecuniary loss is a monetary loss provoked by the victim’s death, such as the financial contribution they made to the family.
  • Loss of services, companionship, and society: This entails the worth of services once supplied by the victim, such as care and maintenance of the home, and child care.

In certain cases, surviving family members may be eligible for punitive damages as well. These damages are applied only in cases of deliberate or gross negligence. Punitive damages are not associated with any one specific loss. They are designed to act as a punishment for the defendant and discourage others from behaving in a similar manner.

How Is Wrongful Death Proven?

Bringing a wrongful death claim for damages is similar to bringing a personal injury claim. This is why it is crucial to immediately investigate the accident and collect evidence that shows that the actions of another driver led to the death of your loved one.

While evidence that is deemed relevant will vary depending on the type of claim being brought, a claim centered around a fatal car accident will include evidentiary components such as:

  • Police accident reports, medical records, and phone records
  • Conducting a forensic examination of the scene
  • Working with medical professionals
  • Locating surveillance and traffic cam footage

There are numerous methods experienced wrongful death attorneys use to collect strong evidence that will support a claim of wrongful death. The goal is to construct a clear and cogent case that proves the four elements of negligence existed and that the wrongful death claim is valid.

What Are the Elements of Negligence?

To file a wrongful death claim in Oregon, the four elements listed below must be proven:

Negligence

In a wrongful death case, it is critical to demonstrate that the loss of your loved one was caused either wholly or in part by the defendant’s negligent, reckless, or intentional acts.

Violation of Duty

For a wrongful death claim to be successful, you will also have to show that the defendant violated the duty of care they owed to your family member. For example, every driver in Oregon has a duty to obey all traffic laws and operate their vehicles in a safe and reasonable manner.

You must prove that a duty of care existed and that it was breached by the defendant’s negligent behavior.

Damages

Lastly, you will also need to quantify your damages. This will include medical expenses, wage losses, and other out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, a reasonable dollar amount will need to be calculated for the pain, suffering, and mental anguish the victim endured prior to their death. Specific surviving family members may be eligible for certain non-monetary losses, like the loss of fellowship.

Oregon’s Cap on Non-Economic Damages

In an Oregon wrongful death lawsuit, non-economic damages are capped at $500,000. Non-economic damages are intangible, non-monetary damages such as disability, and pain and suffering.

Calculating the correct value of damages included in your wrongful death suit is an arduous and complex undertaking. Our Oregon wrongful death attorneys here at I-5 Accidents have the knowledge and skill to handle it for you. We know how to assess damages accurately and are dedicated to ensuring you receive every penny you deserve.

How Long Do I Have to File an Oregon I-5 Wrongful Death Suit?

One of the most important things to do after a family member’s untimely passing is to consult with a reputable wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. If you procrastinate, vital evidence can disappear, and witness accounts become unreliable. By reaching out to an attorney right away, they can develop a strategy that will keep your right to compensation protected. The sooner you reach out, the more time they have to conduct a thorough investigation and build a strong case.

Another reason to speak with an Oregon wrongful death lawyer right away is that the time you have to take legal action for your family member’s death is limited. The timeline that applies to the filing of a civil suit is known as the statute of limitations. Oregon’s statute of limitations states that legal action must be taken no later than three years from the day the fatal injury occurred.

In many cases, the day of the injury and the day of death are one and the same. There are many times, however, where the injury is not immediately fatal. Regardless of when the victim passes, the day their injury was sustained is key to when the statute of limitations starts to run. If you let the statute expire, you will be barred from taking any further legal action and from collecting compensation for your damages.

Get the Help You Need

If you have decided to take legal action over the wrongful death of a family member, you need to work with a lawyer that you trust. The Oregon wrongful death attorneys at I-5 Accidents know the sorrow and despair families go through when they lose a loved one due to negligence.

Our Interstate 5 wrongful death attorneys can review the details of your case in a free consultation. We will evaluate your accident, determine what legal options are available to you, and what forms of compensation you may be owed. We operate on a contingency fee, which means you don’t pay us anything unless we win your case.

Was Your Family Member Killed in a Fatal Car Accident on I-5?

If your family member died in an Interstate 5 accident in Oregon, speak with an experienced and compassionate Oregon wrongful death attorney right away. You can contact us through our website or call us to schedule a free case review with one of our skilled attorneys.

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