It took just one minute for a car accident to change everything. Someone else's negligence caused a catastrophic crash that killed your loved one. Now, you are left grieving the spouse, child, parent, or sibling you lost. As you mourn, you find yourself with decisions that need to be made. What kind of funeral or memorial service will your loved one have? Where will they be buried? How will you pay for the unexpected funeral and burial costs?
Funeral fees and burial expenses can add up quickly, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. You shouldn't have to manage financial strain in addition to your loss. Instead, our experienced Iowa wrongful death lawyers are here to help you get the full and fair recovery you deserve.
The High Costs of an Unexpected Funeral
Everyone grieves in their own way. For many people, a funeral can be a final point of closure—a way to acknowledge loss and an opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one.
While every culture, faith, and family has its own preferences, many funerals incorporate common elements, including:
- Formal funeral services
- Religious ceremonies
- Embalming, dressing, and presentation
- Cremation or burial
- Purchase of a cemetery plot or funerary urn
Even with life insurance and savings, funerals can cost families far more money than expected. A simple cremation averages approximately $3,000 in Iowa, while traditional services easily exceed $13,000.
How Iowa State Law Protects Grieving Families
To prevent surviving spouses and children from taking on unnecessary and unplanned debt, legislators have passed laws to help families pay accident bills, including funeral costs, after fatal accidents.
If you have lost a loved one in a car crash that was not their fault, your family could be entitled to significant damages, including money you could use to fund their funeral, pay down their remaining debt, and establish an enduring legacy.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Iowa
In Iowa, the executor of the deceased person's estate is entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person, or party, who caused the decedent's death. If the victim did not have a will and never named an executor, the court will appoint one on the estate's behalf.
Before filing a lawsuit, the executor must be prepared to establish the following elements of a wrongful death claim:
1. Duty of Care
A duty of care is a legal obligation to act as a reasonable and prudent person would in a similar situation. Motorists, for instance, must abide by Iowa state law and exercise caution while navigating public roadways.
2. Breach of Duty of Care
A motorist breaches their duty of care by acting negligently. A driver could be found negligent if they were intoxicated, distracted, or otherwise reckless.
The executor must be able to establish that the at-fault motorist's breach of duty of care directly caused the deceased person's death.
An Iowa court can only award compensation if the accident resulted in actual damages. In the context of a wrongful death claim, damages are often extensive. They could include payment for funeral fees, reimbursement for the deceased person's lost income from work, and compensation for surviving family members' mental anguish.
Assessing Compensation in an Iowa Wrongful Death Claim
Iowa does not currently cap damages in most car crash wrongful death claims. You could receive compensation for damages including, but not limited to, the following:
- The costs of transferring the deceased person from a hospital or mortuary to a funeral home
- Embalming and dressing
- Hearse services
- Burial expenses
- Funeral fees
- Religious ceremonies
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Lost income from work, including the deceased person's anticipated life-long earnings
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of household services
While the Hawkeye State does not limit compensation in most wrongful death lawsuits, you cannot afford to wait too long before contacting an experienced Iowa wrongful death attorney. Iowa, like most states, has a strict statute of limitations. If you wait too long to take action, the statute of limitations could lapse, forcing the court to dismiss your claim on a technicality.