Each year, hundreds of people die in car accidents in California. These accidents are in many ways just like collisions where no fatalities occur. However, the legal consequences will differ considerably. If you have been involved in a wreck, it is perfectly normal to wonder what happens when someone dies in a car accident.
Many people are confused about what steps to take, if any. They know the police can investigate the crash but don’t know if there is anything they can do to dispel this feeling of powerlessness. Fortunately, California law gives you the right to seek compensation from the person responsible for the car accident. All you need to do is reach out to an experienced Irvine wrongful death attorney.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
After a fatal crash, surviving family members can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the person responsible for the loss of their loved one. They can pursue this case in civil court even if a criminal prosecution is underway. Under California law, the following people can bring a wrongful death lawsuit:
- The surviving spouse
- A surviving domestic partner
- Surviving children or, if no children, then grandchildren
- If none of the above survive the deceased, then anyone who could inherit under California law can bring a lawsuit, such as parents or siblings
In other situations, people who were financially dependent on the deceased can also file, such as the deceased person’s putative spouse, stepchildren, or parents.
A wrongful death lawsuit is not a criminal prosecution. If you prevail, you can’t send the person responsible to jail. Instead, however, you can receive compensation to make up for your losses. The money you receive is called “damages,” and you can receive damages for:
- The loss of financial support you would have received
- The cost of household services your loved one provided
- The loss of community, affection, guidance, and love
Your loved one might have died in a car accident, but that doesn’t mean you can automatically file a wrongful death suit. You can only sue if someone is “at fault” for the death. Fault means the following:
- The person acted negligently and caused the death
- The person acted intentionally or recklessly and caused the death
In other words, the driver did something wrong, and this wrongful conduct caused the collision, leading to your loved one’s death.
Fault exists in many situations, such as:
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Failing to yield
- Illegally passing
- Running a red light
- Failing to use mirrors when passing or backing up
- Driving aggressively
- Distracted driving
- Drunk or impaired driving
You might not know whether you have a valid legal claim, so you need to meet with an experienced wrongful death attorney right away. This person can also help you choose when is the best time to bring the lawsuit.
Help is Here in Your Time of Need
Regardless of how a criminal prosecution turns out, family members have options. A wrongful death lawsuit might be what you need to secure compensation and find peace of mind after the death of a loved one.
At RMD Law, we have represented many grieving family members, and we are here to help you too. Contact us at (949) 326-5000 to schedule a free consultation.