27th November 2023
- Automobile insurance may cover some of the expenses associated with a wrongful death, but probably not all of them.
- Different types of insurance policies may come into play in a wrongful death case.
- Several factors will determine if insurance coverage will cover wrongful death damages.
- Hiring an attorney will provide your best chance of obtaining compensation for the loss of a loved one due to another’s negligence.
No one should ever have to deal with the tragic death of a loved one due to another’s negligence or misconduct. Unfortunately, it happens far too often. When it does, the surviving family members will often ask, “Does car insurance cover wrongful death?” This article will answer that question and provide other critical information.
If a horrible accident has robbed you of a family member, the attorneys with Sand Law offer our deepest condolences. We also stand ready to help you seek justice against those responsible for your loss. You can schedule a free consultation by calling 701-609-1510 or contacting us online.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a legal term that refers to a situation where someone loses their life due to another party’s negligent or intentional actions. The victim’s beneficiaries or family members will often seek compensation for their loss by seeking compensation. While they will typically need to file a wrongful death lawsuit, they may also turn to insurance policies.
Understanding Insurance Coverage for Wrongful Death Cases
It’s critical you know that while you may be able to pursue compensation through an insurance claim, these cases typically involve large sums of money. Insurers will do all they can to protect their profit margins. You can expect them to fight your claim very aggressively. You’ll need an attorney to have the best chance of getting the money you deserve.
Wrongful Death Claims in North Dakota
Since so much money is at stake, wrongful death claims are very complex. To have a valid claim, the victim must have had grounds to file a personal injury claim had they lived through the incident. The following sections address some key components of a wrongful death claim.
Definition and Legal Basis
North Dakota law allows the survivors of the deceased to take legal action against the party or parties that contributed to the fatal accident. The law defines wrongful death as a death caused by another’s wrongful act, neglect, or default. The court can find a person or business liable for damages.
If someone’s intentional actions led to the wrongful death, the survivors can file a civil lawsuit against that person even if they’re facing felony charges.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death claims can arise from various situations where someone’s actions lead to the untimely death of another person. Examples include:
Key Parties Involved in Wrongful Death Claims
In a wrongful death case, several parties play crucial roles. The plaintiffs are the deceased’s surviving family members. The defendant is the at-fault party. The plaintiffs will seek compensation from either the defendant’s insurance company or the defendant themselves.
Types of Insurance Policies Relevant to Wrongful Death
Several insurance policies can apply to a wrongful death case. The following are some of the more common ones.
You can usually file a claim under the deceased’s life insurance policy. However, you may also be able to file a wrongful death claim against those responsible for your loved one’s death. The deceased’s policy may only pay a certain amount of money. If their damages exceed that amount, you may need to take legal action to obtain full compensation.
Does car insurance cover wrongful death? Yes, it does – but only to a certain amount.
For example, all North Dakota drivers must carry basic no-fault insurance. This policy pays for economic losses, such as lost wages and medical bills, regardless of who causes an accident. However, the state minimum for a no-fault policy is $30,000. You’ll likely have to sue the at-fault party if your loved one’s damages exceed that amount.
North Dakota has a two-year statute of limitations regarding lawsuits stemming from a fatal car accident. You have two years from the accident date to take legal action. If you don’t sue within that time, you won’t have any other options to obtain compensation from those responsible.
Liability Coverage and Wrongful Death
Drivers must also carry bodily injury liability coverage. The minimum amount of coverage is $25,000 per person. Again, if your loved one died in an accident caused by a driver with only minimum coverage, you might have to file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain fair compensation for your loss.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
North Dakota also requires drivers to carry uninsured/underinsured coverage. If the driver who caused the fatal accident doesn’t have coverage – or if that coverage isn’t sufficient – you can file a claim under the victim’s policy. The minimum coverage amount is $25,000.
What if the victim’s insurance only pays $25,000, yet their damages are much higher? It probably won’t do any good to sue the at-fault driver. If they don’t have enough to pay for car insurance, they likely won’t have the assets to pay for damages.
In this instance, you’ll need the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney. A skilled lawyer will look for other ways to obtain compensation. If, for example, the at-fault driver’s brakes failed, your attorney may be able to take legal action against the manufacturer.
While homeowners insurance primarily covers property-related incidents, it may also extend coverage to specific liability claims. If a wrongful death occurs on the homeowner’s property due to negligence, that person’s homeowner’s insurance policy might come into play.
Umbrella Insurance Policies
Umbrella insurance provides an extra layer of liability coverage that goes beyond the limits of other insurance policies. This type of coverage can be instrumental in ensuring adequate financial protection in the event of a wrongful death claim.
Factors Affecting Insurance Coverage for Wrongful Death
Many factors will determine what insurance coverage applies to a wrongful death case and how you’ll pursue claims. These factors include:
Insurance policies have limits on the amount of coverage they provide. Understanding these limits is crucial, as they may impact the compensation available to the surviving family members. It’s essential to assess whether the policy limits are enough to cover the damages incurred.
Exclusions and Limitations
Policies also often contain exclusions and limitations that define the scope of coverage. It’s important to carefully review the policy’s terms to determine whether it will cover a wrongful death claim. This is another area where an attorney can help.
Some insurance policies may consider pre-existing health conditions when determining coverage. These conditions could make it harder to obtain compensation.
The insurer, for instance, may argue that your loved one didn’t die due to the accident. Instead, they died because they already had a health issue. An attorney can work to defeat that argument through evidence.
Timely Reporting and Documentation
Prompt reporting of the wrongful death to the insurance company is crucial. Delays in reporting may affect the claim’s processing. Thorough incident documentation, including police reports, medical records, and witness statements, will strengthen your case.
The Role of an Attorney in Insurance Claims for Wrongful Death
As you can see, hiring an attorney can help you navigate the many complexities of a wrongful death case. These are just some reasons you should consider hiring a lawyer immediately.
Why You Need Legal Representation
Navigating the legal complexities of a wrongful death claim can be challenging, especially during a time of grief. An experienced attorney can guide you through the legal process, explain your rights, and advocate for fair compensation.
How an Attorney Can Maximize Your Insurance Coverage
An attorney skilled in wrongful death cases can help maximize your insurance coverage by investigating the accident to establish liability. They can use the evidence they uncover to negotiate with insurance companies from a position of strength. Seasoned lawyers can also pursue additional sources of coverage, such as multiple insurance policies or liable parties.
Proving Liability and Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Proving liability is a critical aspect of wrongful death claims. An attorney will gather evidence, interview witnesses, and work with experts to establish the negligence or wrongful acts that led to the death. Skilled negotiation with insurance companies is essential to secure fair compensation and avoid inadequate settlement offers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What should I do immediately after a wrongful death occurs to ensure insurance coverage?
The first thing to do is speak with the insurance company as quickly as possible. Remember, insurers care more about profits than doing the right thing. If you delay reporting, the insurer will use that as an excuse to deny your claim. Your next step should be to protect your rights by hiring a lawyer.
Can I file a wrongful death claim if the at-fault party does not have insurance?
Yes, you can still pursue a wrongful death claim. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or other applicable insurance policies may provide compensation if the at-fault party doesn’t have coverage.
How can an attorney help me secure fair compensation from insurance companies in a wrongful death case?
An attorney can help by investigating the incident to establish liability. They can also negotiate with insurance companies for a fair settlement and identify additional sources of coverage to maximize compensation.