Traffic-related wrongful deaths are on pace to be the highest since 2007, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). In Ohio, 499 traffic fatalities occurred during the first half of 2015 alone, a 17% increase from last year. That is 76 more deaths than 2014, only six months into the year. It has gotten so bad that the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has placed digital signs in high-traffic areas reminding motorists of the mounting traffic deaths.
The NSC suggests that the increase in traffic deaths is due to an improving economy and lower gas prices, leading to more traffic. Based on my own experience as a personal injury attorney, I believe that other factors are behind the increase, including increased trucking traffic, trucker fatigue, increased speed limits, and cell phone use among drivers.
Under Ohio law, when the negligence of another driver results in a motor vehicle accident, the negligent driver is responsible for any personal injuries caused by the crash, including any wrongful death. Wrongful death claims are governed by the Ohio Wrongful Death Statute and must be brought in the name of decedent’s Estate’s representative. Any settlement or distribution must be approved by the county probate court and certain beneficiaries must be notified of important developments.
In proving a claim for wrongful death arising out of a motor vehicle accident, you need not prove the factors behind the crash (e.g., whether the negligent driver was distracted by texting, drunk driving, etc.). You need only show that the negligent driver failed to follow traffic laws like maintaining their lane, maintaining an assured clear distance, yielding the right of way, speeding, etc.
It is important to hire an attorney experienced in both handling traffic accident cases and wrongful death claims should this tragedy impact your family.