According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 3,000 people are killed annually as a result of distracted driving. Cases of distracted driving continue to rise even with laws being passed with tougher consequences. A large amount of these accidents occur on Anaheim freeways where constant attention is required in the stop-and-go traffic. In such traffic where cars are moving close to another if a driver becomes even slightly distracted, this can lead to a serious accident. This is why in most cases, victims of distracted driving accidents sustain catastrophic injuries including paralysis, traumatic brain injury, and blindness.
In case you’ve recently lost a loved one as a result of another person’s negligent behavior, then you might have some legal rights. Get in touch with an Anaheim wrongful death attorney at the Crockett Law Group to find out more about how our team can assist you during this tough and painful period. Call our personal injury firm in Anaheim at (800) 900-9393.
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What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?
Same as with any other personal injury claim, there are four elements that you as a plaintiff need to prove in a wrongful death claim:
- The accused party had a duty of care towards the deceased victim.
- The accused party breached the duty of care.
- The victim’s death was a direct result of the breach of duty.
- The surviving family suffered losses due to the death of the victim.
Take the following scenario, for instance, drivers have a duty of care towards pedestrians within the designated crosswalk at the 17th Street intersection in Santa Ana. This duty of care is breached when a driver turns left and hits a pedestrian within that crosswalk. The pedestrian is killed on the spot due to blunt force trauma. If the husband of the deceased victim doesn’t have an income and depended on the victim for her love and support, then that husband has a legal right to file a wrongful death claim against the negligent driver.
What Kinds of Damages Can I Receive in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The members of the surviving family can be awarded damages as compensation for the loss of their loved one.
According to the California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 3921, there are two kinds of damages that the surviving family members can receive:
Economic damages are divided into four categories:
- Financial support: The covers the monetary contributions that the deceased victim would have made to the family had their lives not been cut short.
- Gifts/Benefits: This covers the expected gifts/benefits that you would have received from the deceased victim.
- Funeral and burial costs
- Household services: These damages cover the value of household services that the deceased would have offered.
Non-Economic damages are divided into three categories:
- Sex: This covers the loss of sexual enjoyment between the spouse and the deceased.
- Love: This covers the loss of companionship, care, love, comfort, protection, assistance, affection, society, and moral support that the family members would have received from the deceased victim.
- Guidance: This covers the loss of the deceased victim’s guidance and training.
It is worth noting that in California, punitive damages aren’t available. However, they can be awarded via a survivorship claim made on behalf of the deceased victim’s estate.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims in California?
Under the law in California, you are required to file a lawsuit within two years from the date of death of the deceased, otherwise, you risk losing your right to the claim.
For instance, on March 1, 2020, a crossing guard stationed at the Pacific Drive Elementary School in Fullerton was hit and killed by a motorist hurrying to pick their kid from school. As a result, the spouse of the deceased crossing guard has until March 1, 2022, to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the parent responsible for the death of his spouse.
However, some exceptions do exist for public entities, minors, and medical malpractice cases. This is why it is crucial to consult a wrongful death lawyer in Anaheim, CA.
Minors who have lost a parent due to the negligence of another party have two years from the date of their 18th birthday to file a wrongful death claim.
The Government Tort Claim Act stipulates that in the event that the wrongful death claim is against a public entity, the affected party has 6 months from the accrual of the claim to file it with the relevant government agencies. But a minor may make an application requesting to be allowed to file a late claim within a reasonable timeframe not exceeding one year following the injury. The accused public entity will have 45 days to approve or deny your claim, however, it will most probably be denied. Here, you will have 6 months from the date that the claim is denied to file a lawsuit.
How Much Is My Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?
Based on the specific surrounding circumstances, wrongful death claim settlements can range from several hundred thousand to millions of dollars. Generally, the value of wrongful death claims tends to be much higher than most other claims.
There are many variables when it comes to determining the value of any wrongful death claim, and they include:
- The decedent’s age
- The decedent’s earning potential
- If the descendent shared any fault for the incident
- If the responsible party is an individual, organization, or public entity
- The limits of the policy that the responsible party is insured for
It is helpful to check out the wrongful death verdicts made available to the public in California. Topverdict.com reports that in 2019, 15 of the top 50 verdicts in the state of California were wrongful death claims, meaning that wrongful death claims account for around 30% of the highest jury verdicts. This is regardless of the fact that fatal car accidents (3,898) only account for a little over 1% of all automobile accident injuries (276,823) and even a smaller share of all personal injury claims.
Additionally, in that same year, the top 20 wrongful death verdicts in California ranged from $4 million to as high as $60 million. Thus, one can safely conclude that wrongful death claims fall under some of the most valuable personal injury claims, as it should be if you have lost a loved one.
Who Is Entitled to the Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In the state of California, the surviving family members and heirs of the deceased victim will decide on how the settlement money will be split.
Typically, the family members would agree to divide the settlement money evenly amongst themselves and be done with the matter. However, one always has to consider that some family members might have been more financially dependent on the decedent than others. As an example, the 13-year-old son of a deceased victim might have been more financially reliant on the descendent than the deceased’s 26-year-old child. If this is so, then more thought should be put into how the settlement money should be divided.
In case the rightful heirs can’t agree on how to divvy the money, then they can consider bringing in mediators or even binding arbitrators to help with the situation.
Is There a Difference Between Wrongful Death and a Survival Action?
Yes, there are significant differences that exist between a survival action and a wrongful death claim, and they include:
The Party That Can Bring the Claim
The surviving members of the decedent’s family, for example, the children and the spouse, are entitled to filing a claim for wrongful death. On the other hand, a survival action is brought by a personal representative of the estate of the deceased individual.
The Purpose of the Claim
A wrongful death claim is in place to provide compensation to the family of the deceased individual for the wrongful death of a loved one. On the other hand, a survival action is meant to provide compensation to the estate of the deceased individual.
When One Can File the Claim
You can file a wrongful death claim any time when someone loses their lives due to someone else’s negligence. On the other hand, one is only allowed to file a survival claim if the deceased victim survived for some duration of time following the accident before finally succumbing to injuries.
The Damages Awarded
The person filing a wrongful death claim can pursue damages for the loss of the deceased individual’s love and companionship. On the other hand, the California Code of Civil Procedure 377.34 limits the damages awardable in a survival claim to the loss or damage that the deceased victim suffered prior to their death. This includes all penalties/punitive/exemplary damages that the deceased would have been awarded had they not lost their lives. But it doesn’t cover damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement.
Even though in California punitive damages aren’t awardable in a wrongful death claim, they are available in a survival claim. It is worth noting that in most cases, a wrongful death claim and survival action are filed at the same time. But as you would expect, the process of these claims can quickly become complex and overwhelming. This is why you should really consider working with a wrongful death attorney near Anaheim to assist you to maneuver this complex part of the law.
Contact an Anaheim Wrongful Death Attorney Today
Our team of expert wrongful death attorneys represents the interests of victims like you who have been unfairly treated by an insurance firm on a daily basis. Here at Crockett Law Group, we are dedicated to fighting for your rights and ensuring that you are awarded the money that you are entitled to. In case you have lost a loved one due to the other party’s negligence, then you should get in touch with an Anaheim wrongful death lawyer at (800) 900-9393.