From all my years of experience as a wrongful death lawyer in Philadelphia, I know that wrongful deaths from Philadelphia car accidents are tragic events. Fortunately, traffic accident deaths in Pennsylvania have been trending downward in recent years. Unfortunately, there were 93 fatal traffic accidents in Philadelphia County in 2016, compared to 85 in 2015.
Whether or not that increase represents a trend, fatal collisions in Philadelphia have been in the high double digits for many years. The wrongful death lawyers at KaplunMarx understand the emotional and economic burden that car accident deaths impose on surviving family members. We want everyone to drive with care, but when careless drivers cause a death, we help families pursue justice in the form of wrongful death compensation.
Causes of Fatal Traffic Accidents in Philadelphia
Traffic accidents can be caused by a number of factors, including:
- Distracted driving (including cellphone use)
- Alcohol or drug consumption
- Road rage
- Poor judgment
- Failure to follow safe driving procedures (checking mirrors, signaling turns, etc.)
While any of those factors can cause a collision, fatal crashes usually involve additional factors, such as:
- High-speed collisions
- Front-end collisions
- T-bone collisions
- Rollover accidents
- Collisions involving heavy trucks
- Collisions with motorcyclists
- Collisions with bicyclists or pedestrians
- Collisions with trolley cars
Safety devices, including shoulder harnesses, airbags, and crumple zones, prevent deaths in many collisions. When one vehicle substantially outweighs another, particularly when vehicles are moving at highway speeds, the laws of physics defeat even the most sophisticated safety equipment.
In addition, side-impact accidents often leave car occupants undefended by airbags or front-end crumple zones. Of course, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians do not enjoy the same collision as occupants of a car or truck, so even a low-speed collision can produce fatal injuries.
Intersection Accidents in Philadelphia
Deadly accidents commonly occur at high speeds, particularly on highways. However, urban intersections are too often a site of fatal collisions. Vehicles that have entered an intersection are at risk of being “T-boned” by a driver who runs a light or fails to yield. Side-impact collisions cause deaths when they produce rollovers or when the impact causes a car occupant’s head or body to collide violently with the interior of the car.
A study of intersection accidents in Philadelphia during 2015 found that the following five intersections were the most dangerous:
- Grays Avenue and South 49th Street
- East Roosevelt Boulevard and Cottman Avenue
- Penn Street and Arrott Street
- Island Avenue and Lindbergh Boulevard
- North Broad Street and Vine Street
That list changes every year, however, because serious accidents can happen at any intersection. In addition, the number of accidents does not always correlate with the number of accident deaths at a particular intersection. The wrongful death attorneys at KaplunMarx urge drivers to be cautious whenever they approach an intersection, keeping in mind that the drivers of approaching vehicles might not be paying attention to the road.
Causes of Death in Philadelphia Car Accidents
Head injuries are among the least survivable consequences of traffic accidents. Serious concussions can cause more damage than the brain can withstand. In fact, traumatic brain injuries from traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for persons between the ages of 5 and 24.
Other reasons for death caused by a car accident include:
- Severe organ damage, including crush injuries
- Blood loss, including internal bleeding
- Spinal injuries (such as a broken neck)
- Thoracic injuries (such as obstructed airways)
- Infections following hospital treatment
Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are particularly at risk of head injuries and organ damage, since they are unprotected in a collision. However, any vehicle occupant is at risk of dying in a serious accident, particularly when the other vehicle involved in the collision was larger or was moving at a high rate of speed.
Liability for Fatal Car Accidents in Philadelphia
Any person whose negligence causes a death can be held responsible in a wrongful death lawsuit. Negligence is another word for carelessness. The violation of a traffic law is usually regarded as proof of negligence if the violation contributed to the accident. For example, a driver who runs a red light and collides with another car is responsible for the deaths of that car’s occupants.
It is not necessary to prove a traffic law violation, however, to establish negligence. Driving while fatigued isn’t necessarily against the law, but if a driver is less alert because the driver is tired, the decision to drive instead of taking a taxi may be negligent if the driver causes an accident while dozing at the wheel.
Negligent drivers are liable for deaths to occupants of other vehicles and for deaths of their own passengers. For example, a driver who negligently crashes into a trolley car is responsible for the deaths of passengers in the driver’s vehicle.
Compensation for Fatal Car Accidents in Philadelphia
In Pennsylvania, the spouse, parents, and children of an accident victim are usually entitled to seek wrongful death compensation for the victim’s death.
However, the victim’s estate may be entitled to bring a survival claim on the victim’s behalf if death was not immediate.Beneficiaries of the victim’s estate will generally share compensation paid for a survival claim. Beneficiaries are determined by the victim’s will, or by Pennsylvania law if the victim died without a will.
Survival claims seek compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering before death, as well as medical expenses incurred to treat the victim’s injuries prior to death.
Wrongful death claims seek compensation for the lost financial contributions that the victim would have made to surviving family members if the victim had not been killed, as well as the value of services (such as cleaning or making home repairs) the victim would have provided. Family members who participate in wrongful death claims can also recover compensation for the lost comfort, companionship, and guidance that the victim would have provided.
Claiming Compensation for a Philadelphia Car Accident Death
It is important for surviving family members to act quickly when a car accident ends in death. A wrongful death and/or survival claim must be filed in court with two years (unless the case settles earlier) or the right to make that claim will be lost.
Different time periods may apply under some circumstances. Obtaining prompt legal advice from a Philadelphia car accident lawyer will help preserve the legal rights of surviving family members.