Wrong Way Car Accidents and Wrongful Death Lawsuits - Lee Steinberg Law Firm

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Wrong Way Car Accidents and Wrongful Death Lawsuits

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  • A wrong-way driver crash in Grand Rapids ended with two fatalities on July 30th, highlighting the risk of motorists who accidentally, or haphazardly, drive against traffic.
  • Often, wrong-way crashes occur because the driver is confused, distracted, fatigued, intoxicated, or made a bad decision to speed or pass at the wrong time.
  • In 2017, there were 13 wrong-way driving deaths in the state as reported by the Michigan Department of Transportation and drugs and alcohol accounted for three-quarters of them.
  • If a person dies due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another, the decedent’s beneficiaries may be entitled to compensation through filing a wrongful death claim.

Wrong-Way Car Accidents Can Result in Wrongful Death Suits

Michigan State Police reported a deadly head-on crash involving a wrong-way driver in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, July 30th. The accident happened late in the day on northbound U.S. 131, just before Hall Street. Shockingly, both drivers involved were fatally struck in the crash.

Several news outlets described the wrong-way driver as a 30-year-old woman heading southbound in a northbound lane, who hit head-on with a vehicle driven by a 29-year-old man from the Grand Rapids area. The man’s dog was also killed in the crash.

In the spring of 2019, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) began work on countermeasure projects to reduce the amount of deadly wrong-way crashes on high-speed roadways by installing warning lighting on exit ramps. Lights were set to be installed on U.S. 131 around Grand Rapids and in the metro region around Detroit as well. As the investigation related to this crash is ongoing, it is currently unknown if these lights were installed and if not, would have created a different outcome.

Why Would Someone Drive the Wrong-Way?

Wrong-way driver crashes kill nearly 400 people each year across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In Michigan, that number represents between 10 and 15 fatalities annually. MDOT statistics also show drugs and alcohol account for three-quarters of the deaths caused by wrong-way crashes.

  • Often, wrong-way crashes occur because the driver is confused, distracted, fatigued, intoxicated, or under the influence of drugs, or made a bad decision to speed or pass others at the wrong time.
  • Drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as well as older drivers, are the most likely groups to drive against traffic on streets, rural roads, interstates, or highways.
  • Though these types of crashes only represent 1 percent of the total number of traffic-related fatalities that occur annually, injuries tend to be more severe or deadly compared to other types of motor vehicle accidents.

Unlike the July 2019 Grand Rapids tragedy though, wrong-way collisions usually happen at night or during the weekends. They also tend to take place in the lane closest to the median and rarely do both drivers become deceased as a result.

These types of accidents should remind all drivers to stay alert and always to be prepared for the unexpected. For individuals who have lost a loved one through a wrong-way collision, a strong foundation may be present for filing a wrongful death suit. An experienced attorney can help in gathering evidence and preparing the claim.

michigan car accident statistics

How To File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Michigan After a Car Accident

The Michigan Wrongful Death Act (MCL 600.2922) states when a person dies due to a wrongful act, neglect, or fault of another, the person or corporation responsible for causing the death can be held liable for damages. This is called a wrongful death claim and allows a decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs to collect compensation against those responsible.

Under the Wrongful Death Act, only a personal representative for the estate may file the lawsuit. Although this is not an exhaustive list, individuals entitled to compensation are most often:

  1. the surviving spouse
  2. children
  3. descendants
  4. parents
  5. grandparents
  6. brothers and sisters, and
  7. children of the deceased’s spouse

Before a lawsuit can be filed, an estate must be opened per Michigan probate law, and the personal representative must be approved. The personal representative must then notify family members about the claim in writing within 30 days of filing. Family members then have 60 days after learning about the claim to inform the personal representative of damages they’ve suffered. After this cutoff, they can no longer seek personal recompense.

If the deceased did not have any living relatives, a personal representative, or a will, the estate could be inherited by others, such as living aunts, uncles, and cousins, or even distant relatives.

Understanding the Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

The statute of limitations is the period in which a lawsuit must be filed to preserve a claim for damages on a wrongful death claim. This time limit varies depending on the type of underlying negligence determined. But in general, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death or survival action relies on the theory of recovery and most cases involving personal injury have a three-year statute of limitations (MCL 600.5805), including those involving motor vehicle accidents. After this, the statute of limitations will expire, and the family or personal representative will no longer be able to pursue a wrongful death suit.

Connect with a Michigan Wrongful Death Attorney

If someone you love was tragically taken in a wrong-way driver crash or killed in any type of motor vehicle accident in Michigan, know that the Lee Steinberg Law Firm can help. Depending on the underlying form of negligence, please know that there is a time limit to file a wrongful death claim and speaking to an attorney can help a grieving family understand the sensitivities related to the state’s statute of limitations.

Please call Lee Free and speak to our car accident attorneys at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out our Free Case Evaluation Form to learn more. And remember, we will come to you and discuss any legal questions you might have during this difficult time. We will also ensure you pay nothing until we settle your case.

Also read: How to Avoid a Crash with a Wrong-Way Driver