But Who Was Driving?
But Who Was Driving?
An interesting scenario may present itself in a wrongful death claim where police are unable to ascertain who was driving. This might occur when the occupants in the vehicle responsible for the accident do not survive and are found outside the vehicle so that their positions in the vehicle cannot be determined, or a survivor claims that the deceased was driving. Another scenario is where all parties are deceased and, again, it cannot be determined who was driving.
In a wrongful death claim, the estate of the deceased brings a claim for damages. If the claim is against a deceased motorist, the claim is handled in probate court where the plaintiff is a creditor making a claim against the decedent’s estate.
For the most part, a plaintiff or administrator for the decedent’s estate who is making the claim collects compensation from the responsible party’s insurer. If both occupants are deceased, the claim is against the auto’s insurer, regardless of who was driving. It may make a difference if one of the decedents has substantial resources that the plaintiff or decedent estate’s administrator can pursue. It may also be an issue if the insurer is claiming that the alleged driver was unauthorized so that it is denying coverage. For example, the person may have been unlicensed or had a suspended or revoked license.
How to Determine Who Was Driving
It is rare in a car accident claim where police cannot determine the motorist driving the car responsible for the accident. It is possible that the occupants could both point to the other as the driver if police arrive and the occupants are outside the vehicle, or in the above scenario where both occupants are deceased and are found outside the vehicle.
In such cases, a mechanical engineer may be needed to examine the physical evidence. In the car’s interior, the engineer can match the damage with the injuries to the occupants. If there is a knee injury, the engineer could possibly ascertain if it is consistent with the location of the vehicle damage. DNA on the steering wheel or on the driver or passenger side might disclose the driver as well.
If there are head injuries, then head contact with the windshield could reveal the driver’s identity. If there is significant difference in the height of the occupants, then the position of the driver’s car seat might be a clue, especially if it is where a taller or shorter person would have positioned the seat.
Seat belt bruising is another revealing clue if it occurs on the right or left clavicle. In late model vehicles, engineers can use data from air bag systems that store information such as the weight of a seat’s occupant.
So, in many cases it is still possible to determine who was driving with the assistance of an engineer trained and experienced in auto collisions so that denials from multiple occupants or lack of answers from those who did not survive are not conclusive.
Damages in Car Accident Claims
Besides needing a car accident lawyer to determine liability in an accident, you also need one to recover the compensation to which you are entitled. Your damages are based on the degree of liability of the responsible party and the nature and extent of your damages. Most damages include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Exacerbation of a pre-existing condition
- Emotional trauma
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Diminution in quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
If a death claim, it is brought by the administrator of the decedent’s estate for the benefit of the decedent’s immediate family. Damages can include:
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Loss of income during the working life of the decedent
- Pain and suffering but only if the decedent was observed to have consciously suffered before succumbing
- Final medical bills if applicable
- Loss of the love, companionship, comfort, guidance and counsel the decedent would have provided family members
- Punitive damages if the defendant exhibited gross negligence or malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct
Consult with car accident lawyer Neil Burns, a Boston personal injury attorney who has obtained millions of dollars for his injured clients over his 30-years of practice. His experience, knowledge and skills obtained in handling thousands of cases can get you the compensation your case deserves.