Reckless driving crashes and wrongful death lawsuits
Former University of Georgia football star Jalen Carter, 21, has made headlines for his involvement in a deadly car crash that killed both a teammate and a staffer.
On January 15, 2023, Carter and two others were driving “in a manner consistent with racing” in the early hours of the morning, with their speeds topping 100 miles per hour. The other driver also had a blood-alcohol level of 0.197.
After a crash that claimed the lives of Devin Willock, 20, and Chandler LeCroy, 24, Carter was charged with reckless driving and racing.
What is reckless driving?
Reckless driving can have a broad legal definition, but it’s generally defined as driving that willfully or consciously ignores the rules of the road or increases the risk of harm to one’s self or others. Crashes involving reckless driving frequently lead to severe injury and death.
Reckless driving can include the following:
- Running lights and stop signs
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Drunk driving (DUI/DWI)
- Texting and other forms of distracted driving
While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn’t provide statistics for reckless driving specifically, there are statistics for related behavior on the road, including speeding. In 2020 alone, the NHTSA reported that speeding accounted for more than 11,000 deaths in the U.S.
Deadly car crashes in Montana
According to the Montana Highway Patrol, the state sees between 160 – 190 car accidents per year, with related deaths reaching as high as 213 per year in 2020.
Here are the most common factors behind these fatal crashes:
- Speeding (45%)
- Alcohol (29%)
- Drugs (34%)
- Pedestrians (29%)
Other reasons for accidents and fatalities include poor road conditions and visibility.
What is a wrongful death?
A wrongful death is when someone dies as a result of another’s negligence. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the party at fault can be a number of people, including an employer, a driver on the road, or a manufacturer of a defective product.
A wrongful death lawsuit is brought to court on behalf of the victim by their family.
Damages in a wrongful death claim can be extensive. They can cover not only practical expenses such as medical bills and funeral costs but also intangible losses. For example, you might receive compensation for the loss of a family member’s companionship, emotional support and financial contributions to the household.
If the negligent party’s behavior was especially careless or intentional, you might also be awarded punitive damages.
How To File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Our step-by-step guide can help you navigate the process of filing a lawsuit after the unexpected death of a loved one.
Who can sue in a wrongful death claim?
Wrongful death lawsuits are generally limited to close and immediate family members such as:
The family (or, in some cases, the court) will appoint a “personal representative” to act on behalf of everyone, filing the suit and appearing in court. Any benefits received will be distributed to all beneficiaries.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim
Find out which parties are eligible to file a wrongful death claim in Montana if a loved one dies because of someone else’s negligence.
What damages can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit?
There are several types of compensation that you can seek with a wrongful death claim. These include but aren’t limited to:
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Lost earnings and benefits
- Pain and suffering
Wrongful death benefits are usually divided into “economic damages” and “non-economic damages.”
- Economic damages are intended to compensate you for the money that you’ve spent or lost because of your loved one’s passing.
- Non-economic damages are intended to compensate you for non-financial losses like pain and suffering, loss of companionship, loss of care and general emotional distress.
In reckless driving cases, you may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant for their negligence. Punitive damages can result in large payouts for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, but they’re only awarded in extreme cases.
How do you prove negligence in a wrongful death crash?
Proving liability in a wrongful death car accident can be complicated. It’s usually a multi-step process in which the plaintiff needs to prove the following:
- The defendant owed a “duty of care” to the deceased
- The defendant breached that duty of care
- An accident resulted because of the defendant’s negligence
- The accident resulted in significant financial loss
The duty of care doesn’t have to be literal. For example, drivers all assume a duty of care when they receive their driver’s licenses and promise to obey traffic laws. If they engage in reckless driving after that, they’ve breached their duty of care to everyone else on the road.
How long do you have to file a wrongful death claim in Montana?
In Montana, the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit is 3 years from the date the deceased died.
There are some exceptions, but as with other aspects of wrongful death claims, they can be complex to navigate on your own. Consider hiring a wrongful death attorney to help.
Contact a Montana wrongful death attorney
The unexpected death of a loved one is devastating—especially if it could have been prevented. No amount of money can ever make up for your loss, but it can help you get justice for your loved one and ease the financial burdens you face. At Murphy Law Firm, our dedicated wrongful death attorneys have been helping guide Montana families through difficult losses for over 75 years.