According to NHTSA (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), about 3,000 people die every year as a result of distracted driving. And while laws with more substantial penalties are being passed each year, distracted driving incidents continue to rise. A large number of accidents in Garden Grove happen on freeways and highways where stop and go traffic demands constant attention. When vehicles are moving close together at high speeds, the slightest distraction could end up causing an accident. This is why distracted driving accident victims often suffer severe (sometimes fatal) injuries such as paralysis, blindness, and traumatic brain injury.
If you’ve lost a loved one recently due to another person’s negligence, you might be entitled to receiving compensation for your loss. To learn more about wrongful death claims, contact Crockett Law Group and speak to one of our Garden Grove wrongful death attorneys. We are here to help you get through this painful and difficult time as we do our best to make sure you get compensated for your pain and loss. Call a personal injury attorney in Garden Grove today at (800) 900-9393.
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What Needs to Be Proven in a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Just like with personal injury claims, there are four elements that you need to prove for your wrongful death claim to be considered:
- The person responsible for the accident owed the deceased duty of care.
- They breached that duty of care.
- Their lack of care is what led to the victim dying.
- The deceased’s demise caused losses to their family and anyone under their care.
Drivers need to be mindful of pedestrians using the marked crosswalk at the Fairview Street and 17th Street intersection in Santa Ana and owe them a duty of care. If a driver turns left and ends up hitting a pedestrian using the crosswalk, they’ve breached their duty of care. Sadly, the pedestrian dies on the spot due to blunt force trauma. Now, let’s say the pedestrian’s wife didn’t work and relied on the deceased for his support and love. In such a case, the deceased pedestrian’s wife has the right to file a wrongful death claim against the individual who killed her husband.
What Damages Can I Recover From a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The deceased’s family can be awarded money to serve as compensation for the loss of their beloved. According to CACI (California Civil Jury Instructions) No. 3921, two types of damages can be awarded:
These are broken down into four different categories:
- Financial support: includes support the deceased would have continued to contribute to their family through their lifetime hadn’t they died.
- Benefits/Gifts: includes the loss of benefits or gifts the deceased’s family would have received had they continued to live.
- Household Services: includes the value of household-related services the deceased would have provided.
- Burial and funeral expenses.
These are broken down into three different categories:
- Love: Includes the loss of companionship, affection, protection, love, care assistance, comfort, and moral support the family would have received from their deceased loved one.
- Guidance: include the loss of the deceased’s guidance and training.
- Sex: includes the loss of sexual enjoyment if it’s your spouse who perished.
Punitive damages aren’t available in wrongful death claims in California. However, they may be available through survivorship claims made on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
What Is California’s Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims?
In California, you are required to file your suit within two years from the day your loved one died, or you risk getting barred from ever seeking reparation.
For instance, on the first of March 2020, a crossing guard who worked in front of Pacific Drive Elementary School, Fullerton, got struck by a car and died on the spot. In this case, the crossing guard’s wife has until the first of March 2022 to file a suit against the responsible driver for the wrongful death of her spouse.
However, it’s worth noting that there are some exceptions when it comes to medical malpractice claims, public entities, and minors. Considering that things can become a bit complicated when filing a claim, consulting with a Garden Grove wrongful death attorney is advised.
Minors who lose their parents have two years after they’ve turned 18 to file a lawsuit against the liable party.
If your wrongful death suit is against a public entity/institution, you only have six months, according to the Government Tort Claims Act, to file your case with the corresponding government agency. However, minors are allowed to submit applications that seek permission to file their claim later, though within a reasonable period not exceeding one year after their injury. Public entities have 45-days to deny or grant a claim – most agencies deny. If that is the case, you have 6-months from the day your claim was denied to file a suit.
How Much Are Wrongful Death Lawsuits Worth?
It depends – and most on the circumstances surrounding the case. However, most settlements range from a few thousand dollars to several million dollars. Generally, wrongful death claims tend to pay out greater settlements than other types of claims.
Several factors generally determine the worth of a wrongful death claim, and they include:
- The deceased’s age
- Their earning potential
- Whether they were partly to blame for the accident
- Whether the party that caused the accident is a public entity, individual, or corporation
- The policy limits the responsible party is insured for
Let’s take a quick look at some of the wrongful death verdicts that have been made public in the state of California. According to Topverdict.com, fifteen (15) of the top fifty (50) verdicts in California in 2019 were wrongful death claims. Claims involving wrongful death make up about 30 percent of all jury verdicts even though fatal car crashes make up for about one percent (3,898) of all car crash-related injuries (276, 823). This accounts for a tiny percentage of all personal injury-related claims.
Furthermore, the top twenty wrongful death settlements in California in 2019 ranged between $4,000,000 and $60,000,000. It’s, therefore, safe to say that claims involving wrongful death are amongst the most valuable when it comes to personal injury lawsuits, and rightfully so, considering that the loss of a loved one isn’t trivial.
Who Reserves the Right to Get the Money Awarded Through a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Garden Grove, California, it is mainly up to the decedent’s family members to decide how the settlement money is divided.
Ideally, all those involved agree to share the settlement money equally amongst themselves and call it a day. However, in most cases, you will find that there are family members who were more financially dependent on the decedent than others. For instance, the deceased might have had two children aged 13 and 26. In such a situation, it’s safe to say the minor was more financially-dependent on him or her than their 26-year-old. When that is the case, it does not make sense to distribute settlement proceeds evenly.
If family members cannot reach a consensus on how they should split the money awarded, binding arbitration or mediation might be needed to help them reach a decision.
What Is the Difference Between a Survival Action and Wrongful Death?
There are a few notable differences between a survival action and a wrongful death claim, and they include:
Who Files the Claim
Wrongful death claims are submitted by the decedent’s family members, e.g., children or spouses. Survival claims, on the other hand, are filed by the deceased’s personal estate representative.
The Purpose of the Claim
The primary purpose of wrongful death claims is to compensate the decedent’s family for their pain and loss while survival action claims are filed to pay the deceased’s estate.
When the Claim Can Be Filed
Wrongful death claims can be submitted anytime a person dies as a result of another person’s wrongful conduct. Survival claims, on the other hand, can only be filed when the decedent survived the accident for a period before succumbing to their injuries.
Wrongful death claimants can seek compensation for the loss of their loved one’s companionship and love. When it comes to survival claims, the damages available are limited by Code 377.34 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure to the damage or loss the decedent incurred or sustained before death, including punitive damages, exemplary damages, or penalties they’d have been eligible to recover had they not passed away. However, it is worth noting that it doesn’t include damages for disfigurement, suffering, or pain.
While punitive damages aren’t available in wrongful death claims in the state of California, they’re available in survival actions.
It is worth noting that survival claims and wrongful death claims are often filed simultaneously. With so much involved, these lawsuits can quickly and easily become complex and confusing, which is why you should consider hiring the services of an Orange Country wrongful death attorney and have them help you navigate through the complicated world of personal injury laws.
Crockett Law Group – Home to Garden Grove’s Best Wrongful Death Attorneys
As wrongful death attorneys, we’ve represented the best interests of victims who’ve been treated unfairly by insurance companies. At the Crockett Law Group, we are committed to ensuring your wrongful death claim is professionally-handled from start to end and will fight to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another person, call our Garden Grove injury firm at (800) 900-9393 and speak to one of our caring and professional wrongful death attorneys. Let Crockett Law Group help you seek justice for your loved one.