Understanding Wrongful Death Car Accident Settlements

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The first thing to understand about car accident settlements is that most of these incidents are not “accidents.” In fact, human error causes over 90 percent of the fatal car crashes in South Carolina. We all make mistakes, and we must all take responsibility for our mistakes. If we all obeyed this simple principle, the Palmetto State would be an even better place to live.

When a person causes a deadly wreck, this responsibility includes paying compensation to the survivors. This compensation usually includes money for pecuniary damages, such as lost future financial support, the decedent’s final medical bills, lost future emotional support, and the decedent’s pain and suffering. A Lancaster wrongful death attorney can obtain additional compensation for survivors in some cases.

Negligence and Vehicle Collisions

Broadly speaking, the negligence, or lack of care, in a deadly car wreck could involve driver impairment or an operational error.

Usually, impaired motorists know they should not drive. But they get behind the wheel anyway, intentionally putting other people at risk. Some examples of impairment include:

  • Alcohol/Drugs: These substances contribute to about half the fatal accidents in South Carolina. Usually, the first puff, pill, or sip is sufficient to adversely affect judgement ability and motor skills.
  • Drowsiness: Fatigue is especially a serious problem among commercial operators. Many bus drivers are behind the wheel at off hours, many truck drivers are on the wheel for long hours, and many Uber operators have full time commitments elsewhere.
  • Distraction: Scientifically, anything which causes people to take their eyes off the road, their minds of driving, or their hands off the wheel is distracted driving. However, not all forms of distraction constitute negligence.

Speeding, ignoring a traffic control device, and making an illegal turn are the most common fatal accident-causing traffic violations.

Some Insurance Company Defenses

In these cases, plaintiffs must establish a lack of care by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. That’s a very low standard of evidence. However, the evidence must be strong enough to counter some common insurance company defenses.

Last clear chance, which often comes up in rear-end crash claims, is a good example. The evidence must clearly show that the decedent could not have reasonably avoided the collision. Otherwise, compensation might be unavailable.

Wrongful death survivors are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney in Lancaster, contact the Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.


What is contributory negligence?

Comparative fault shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim.

What is the last clear chance?

The at-fault driver is held liable when he or she recognizes a dangerous situation but fails to take action to avoid injuring another party.

What is a sudden emergency?

Drivers aren’t negligent if they reasonably react to a sudden emergency and cause a crash.

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