Life as we knew it radically changed once COVID-19 became a global pandemic. Social distancing, school closures, lockdowns, and business shutdowns changed peoples’ behaviors in major ways. In March 2020, states began implementing measures to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, namely stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders designed to reduce human to human contact and transmission of the virus. In most states, only “essential businesses” could remain open, and the results were drastic: most of the residents of any given city remained at home on a day-to-day basis. Despite roads being much less crowded, the National Safety Council reported that in March 2020, the motor vehicle accident fatality rate actually increased by 14%.
From January-March 2020, some Southern states have seen among the biggest increases in deadly car accidents: Arkansas (+16%), Tennessee (+6%), and Louisiana (+23%). These figures come even as the total number of vehicle miles driven across the United States in March 2020 decreased 18.6% compared to March 2019. Why are fatal accident rates going up even when most Americans were sheltering at home?
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating a 63% increase in deadly car crashes in Shelby County in the first 5 months of 2020, as compared to the same period of 2019. From January 1 – May 26, 2020, THP has reported at least 80 traffic fatalities in Shelby County, but in the same period in 2019, there were 49 lives lost in car wrecks.
One factor contributing to the increased fatality rate may be speed. Some areas have seen a rise in speeding and reckless driving tickets, with drivers opting to go much faster on emptier roads. An official with the Tennessee Highway Patrol noted that if someone typically drives fast on crowded roads, “then odds are you’re going to drive even faster on a less congested roadway.” Whether roads are busy or empty, drivers must exercise due caution behind the wheel. The dangers of speeding are well-known by now – losing control of the vehicle, lowering reaction times, being unable to properly maneuver turns, and mitigating the effectiveness of safety procedures like airbags.
Fatal Car Accident Insurance Claims
Claims involving fatal car accidents are known as wrongful death claims. In a wrongful death car accident case, the survivors of the deceased must prove liability against the at-fault driver, which means fault. Liability can be established by proving the at-fault driver failed to act reasonably under the existing circumstances or violating a driving ordinance, such as speeding, texting while driving, or driving drunk.
Damages comprise a separate legal burden of proof. Wrongful death damages can include medical bills, loss of future earnings, and pain and suffering until the point of death. Loss of consortium is a separate element of damages available to surviving loved ones. A surviving spouse, for instance, is entitled to assert a claim for loss of consortium damages, which encompasses loss of companionship, loss of affection, and other losses and deprivation of benefits as a married couple.
Who can sue for wrongful death in a car accident case? The law dictates the priority in which a claim can be filed. In Tennessee, the priority is set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. section 20-5-107. The law states that a wrongful death action may be brought by the surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, the right to bring a claim passes to the deceased’s children or next of kin, the personal representative of those individuals, and the decedent’s parents. Before attempting to file a claim or lawsuit, you should first consult with a lawyer well-versed in your state’s wrongful death laws. Failing to properly follow the law can result in your claim being dismissed.
Get a Free Legal Consultation Today
Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz has represented families in wrongful death car accidents for 30+ years, and our team of lawyers has the resources to give your case the personal attention you deserve and handle your case the right way. We are available 24/7 to speak with you and explain in detail the steps we will take to protect your legal rights and those of your loved ones. For a confidential and no-cost consultation with an attorney today, call 800-529-4004 or complete our online form.