Distracted driving is dangerous as a distracted driver is more likely to be involved in a serious accident. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA), about 3,000 people are killed every year in crashes involving distracted drivers. Most of these accidents occur on freeways in Huntington Beach where stop-and-go traffic needs constant attention.
When cars are close together, even a slight distraction can cause a serious accident that results in devastating injuries such as paralysis, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and blindness or death. A Huntington Beach wrongful death attorney at the Crockett Law Group can help you through this trying time by helping you recover the compensation you deserve. If you have lost a loved one due to a distracted driver, consider filing a wrongful death claim to get compensation. Call our personal injury attorneys in Huntington Beach today at (800) 900-9393.
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What Are the 4 Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is just like any other personal injury claim when it comes to the elements that the victim has to prove. These 4 elements include:
- The at-fault party owed a duty of care to the deceased victim
- The at-fault party breached that duty of care
- The failure to uphold the duty of care caused the death of the victim
- The death resulted in losses
For instance, a driver owes a duty of care to pedestrians within the marked crosswalk at the 17th Street and Fairview Street Intersection in Santa Ana. The driver will have breached his duty of care if he or she turns left and hits a pedestrian within that crosswalk.
If the pedestrian dies as a result of blunt force trauma and the deceased victim was the family breadwinner and relied upon by her husband for love and support. The deceased victim’s husband has a legitimate wrongful death claim against the driver responsible for her wife’s death.
What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The deceased victim’s family may be given money (damages) to compensate them for the loss of their loved one. California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 3291 explains the two types of damages that may be awarded in a wrongful death claim. These damages include:
Economic damages are divided into 4 categories:
- Financial Support: This is the financial support that the deceased would have supported his or her family financially during his or her lifetime or during your lifetime whichever is shorter.
- Gift/Benefits: This includes the loss of benefits or gifts that you expected to be given by the deceased.
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Household services: This includes the value of household services that would have been provided by the deceased victim
Noneconomic damages are divided into these 3 categories:
- Love: This includes the loss of love, comfort, companionship, protection, care assistance, society, protection, and moral support that you would have received from the deceased.
- Sex: This includes the loss of sexual enjoyment between you and the deceased
- Guidance: This includes the loss of the deceased’s guidance and training
While punitive damages are not awarded in wrongful death lawsuits in California, they may be awarded through a survivorship claim made on behalf of the estate of the deceased victim.
Is there a Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Yes. The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in California is two years from the date of the deceased’s death. This means that you have to file a wrongful death claim within two years or you risk being barred from filing it. For instance, if a crossing guard is struck and killed by a vehicle rushing to pick up their child from school in front of the Pacific Drive Elementary School in Fullerton on March 1, 2020, the deceased’s spouse has until March 1, 2020, to file a wrongful death claim against the driver responsible for the death.
However, there are exceptions for minors, public entities, and malpractice claims. As such, it is good to look for an experienced and skilled lawyer to help you file a wrongful death attorney in Huntington Beach so that he or she can advise you on the statute of limitations applicable to your case.
If the deceased victim’s child was a minor when the death occurred, he or she has to file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years after their 18th birthday.
However, a minor is allowed to submit an application for permission to file a late claim within one year after the injury. The public entity is required to either grant or deny your claim within 45 days (it is mostly denied). If the entity denies your claim, you will be required to file a lawsuit within 6 months after the date of denial.
If the death was caused by the wrongful actions of a public entity and you would like to file a wrongful death claim, the Government Tort Claims Act says that you have six months from the accrual of the claim to file it with the appropriate government agency.
How Much Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?
The value of a wrongful death case varies depending on the circumstances surrounding the loss. Awards in wrongful death claims range from several hundred thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars and are more than other claims. The value of a wrongful death claim depends on different factors including:
- The age of the deceased victim
- Whether the deceased victim contributed to the accident in any way
- The deceased victim’s earning potential
- The policy limits the at-fault party is insured for
- Whether the at-fault party is an individual, corporation or public entity
It is also important to look at the wrongful death verdicts made public in California. In 2019, 15 out of 50 verdicts in California (30% of jury verdicts) were wrongful death claims. Fatal car accidents (3,898) only make up only over 1% of all car crash injuries (276,823) and a smaller percentage of all personal injury claims.
Moreover, the top 20 wrongful death verdicts in California for 2019 ranged from 4 million dollars to 60 million dollars. Wrongful death claims are among the most valuable claims that exist in personal injury.
Who Receives the Financial Compensation in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In California, the family of the deceased victim will be the ones to decide how to divide the settlement money. Ideally, families would agree to divide the settlement money into equal shares. However, in most cases, there is a family member who was more financially dependent on the deceased victim than another one.
For instance, if the deceased was the father of 2 (a 13-year old and a 26-year-old child), the 13-year-old will likely get more money as he or she was more financially dependent on their father than the 26-year old child. If the family members cannot agree on how to divide the settlement money, binding arbitration and mediation may help them agree on how to apportion the money.
What Is the Difference Between Wrongful Death Claims and Survival Actions?
Wrongful death claims and survival actions differ in many ways including:
A wrongful death claim is filed by the family members of the deceased victim such as a spouse and children. On the other hand, a survival claim is filed by the representative of the deceased victim’s estate.
The Purpose of the Claim
A wrongful death claim is meant to compensate the family of the deceased victim for the loss of their loved one. On the other hand, a survival action is meant to benefit the estate of the deceased victim.
When the Claim is Brought
You can bring a wrongful death claim anytime a loved one dies as a result of another person’s wrongful conduct. On the other hand, you can only bring a survival claim when the deceased person survived for some period of time following the accident before succumbing to the injuries they sustained.
The Available Damages
When a claimant files a wrongful death claim, he or she is seeking reimbursement for the loss of the deceased victim’s companionship and love. On the other hand, the available damages in a survival claim are limited by California Code of Civil Procedures 377.34 to the damage or loss that the decedent incurred or sustained before death, including any penalties or exemplary damages or punitive damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover, had he or she lived. However, it does “not include damages for pain, suffering or disfigurement.”
Punitive damages are not awarded in a wrongful death claim in California. On the other hand, they are awarded in a survival action.
Note that in many instances, a wrongful death claim and survival claim are filed at the same time. As you can see, these two claims can be confusing and complicated. Therefore, it is important to consider hiring a reputable wrongful death lawyer in Huntington Beach as the lawyer knows the ins and outs of this area of law.
Call a Huntington Beach Wrongful Death Attorney to Review Your Claim
As wrongful death lawyers, we fight for the rights of victims and ensure they get the compensation they deserve. The Crockett Law Group is dedicated to handling a wrongful death claim from the beginning to the end and try as much as possible to help you win your case. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, contact our Huntington Beach injury firm at (800) 900-9393 to speak with an experienced and skilled attorney.