Losing a loved one in a car crash is devastating. While no amount can bring back your deceased family member, taking legal action and obtaining compensation may help get you the closure you need to move forward.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) reported that in 2017 alone, 3,582 fatal crashes occurred in the state of California. Of these numbers, 3, 904 were reported dead. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit or a survival action.
California laws surrounding this type of claim is complex, but a skilled wrongful death attorney can provide you with the support and legal advice necessary to obtain a positive outcome for your case.
What is Considered a Wrongful Death in California?
In California, wrongful deaths are defined as fatalities that result from another party’s negligence. They can arise due to many circumstances, but fatal car accidents are among the most common.
Data from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that auto accident deaths rose by 7.7 percent in 2015, resulting in approximately 35, 200 fatalities.
Getting Compensation for the Death of a Family Member
Under CACI No. 3921, eligible individuals may seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include:
- Financial support that the victim should have given to the surviving family members
- Burial expenses
- Funeral expenses
- The loss of gifts and benefits the claimants are expecting to receive
- The financial loss of household services provided by the decedent (the person who passed away)
Meanwhile, non-economic damages include:
- The loss of affection, companionship, affection, relations, and emotional support for the family
- The partner’s loss of the enjoyment of intimacy with the decedent
- The loss of guidance from the decedent
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a Fatal Accident
If the death of a loved one resulted from another driver’s negligence, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. For instance, if the responsible party was drunk-driving, you can pursue a wrongful death claim. This is true even if the at-fault driver is not facing criminal charges.
It’s crucial to note that only select individuals can file a wrongful death claim. These include the domestic partner, surviving spouse, and children. If none of them are available, the deceased person’s parents or siblings can file as long as they are eligible to inherit assets based on intestate succession guidelines.
In addition to the individuals mentioned above, the following can also bring a California wrongful death claim to court:
- The decedent’s “putative spouse” (an individual with a good-faith belief that a marriage is legally valid despite their spouse being already married to a different person)
- The children of the deceased’s putative spouse
- The deceased individual’s stepchildren
- The decedent’s legal guardians if the parents are deceased
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in California is two years from the victim’s date of death. If a claim is filed after the statute has expired, it will likely be dismissed.
Filing a Survival Action According to California’s Wrongful Death Law
Similar to a wrongful death suit, a survival action is filed based on an at-fault driver’s negligence, recklessness, and intentional conduct. However, it is brought by the estate instead of an heir.
A survival action is valid if the victim lived for some time following the car accident. It can cover medical expenses, property damage, and loss of wages.
For example, suppose a person sustained a traumatic brain injury from a car accident and lived for several weeks before passing away. In that case, a survival action can cover the medical bills and loss of the wages the person would have earned if they had not been in the hospital.
Compassionate Legal Services in Los Angeles
While no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a loved one, an experienced law firm specializing in car accidents will help get the heirs and survivors the compensation needed to cover the deceased’s medical bills, funeral costs, and economic and non-economic losses.
Because they no longer have to worry about the expenses left behind, the deceased’s loved ones can focus on healing.
Haffner Law’s team of compassionate wrongful death and car accident lawyers will provide you with support, counsel, and representation during this difficult time. Call our law office at 213-514-5681 or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation today.