On May 30, 2012 there was a fatal car accident involving Good Samaritan Earl Loury on Interstate 90 in Cleveland. Mr. Loury was trying to help a woman and her 4-year-old passenger after their car had stalled on the highway. As he was pushing the car near the East 55th Street exit, a driver of a Ford Excursion SUV left the road and caused a fatal collision with the Good Samaritan. Mr. Loury was taken to the Cleveland Clinic but died from his injuries a short time later.
In the United States, about 40,000 people are killed in auto accidents each year, with another 3 million people being injured. Of the 3 million injures, 2 million of those end up being permanent. There are more than 6 million car accidents in the United States every year.
Legal Issues Arising From This Accident
Several questions arise from accidents such as this Good Samaritan collision that clearly resulted in a wrongful death. In these types of cases, the estate representative must begin to cope not only with the loss, but also attempt to understand the overwhelming amount of legal issues associated with the incident. Some issues involved with this tragic accident are as follows.
First, the issue of the potential for punitive damages arises. Oftentimes in this type of senseless accident, the at-fault driver turns out to have been impaired. When an impaired driver causes an injury or death, the harmed parties are entitled to recover punitive damages above and beyond any award of standard compensatory damages. The situation becomes more complicated when the at-fault party also dies and the harmed parties are pursuing assets from an estate.
Second, no statements should be given to any insurance companies until after estate representatives have spoken with an attorney. Insurance company representatives will sound sympathetic, polite, helpful, and friendly on the phone, but they are not an advocate for the families of those harmed or killed in an accident. In fact, the adjuster’s goal is to use written or recorded statements in an effort to pay the least amount of money possible. Some insurance companies even give adjusters bonuses based on how little money they pay out on claims – especially potential high value wrongful death claims.
Third, the estate representatives should not sign any authorization for any insurance company until the representative has spoken with an attorney. Signing authorizations will give the insurance company a “free pass” to obtain any and all information regarding confidential and private past medical records as well as other information that they should not be entitled to. They will then attempt to use this information against the decedent’s estate.
Fourth, the estate representative will have to determine the best way to pay medical bills prior to settlement, whether through health insurance, the medical payments provision of an auto policy, direct payment to providers, or other methods that are available in some cases. Choosing the wrong option could literally cost the surviving family members tens of thousands of dollars.
Fifth, the estate representative will have to navigate the probate court process and look out for the interests of any children who have been left without a parent and make sure that the children are properly compensated for something that is truly not even compensable – the loss of a parent.
These are just some of the legal issues that arise when there is an accident of this type. Unfortunately there are many more, and the situation can often seem hopelessly complicated and be a huge burden on a grieving family. This is where a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can make all the difference and lighten the load on a family who just lost a loved one.
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If you have questions about any of the legal issues raised in this blog, contact Dodosh Law Offices, LLC at (440) 298-2344. Or, you can fill out a contact form and Attorney Dodosh will get in touch with you.