The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distracted driving causes nearly 3,000 people to lose their lives every year. Despite the act that laws have been passed with increased penalties, there continues to be an increase in distracted driving incidents. A high percentage of those accidents occur on freeways in Irvine where stop-and-go traffic demands constant attention. Whenever vehicles are close together, a serious crash can be caused by just the slightest distraction. This is why distracted driving accident victims often suffer injuries that are catastrophic, including blindness, paralysis, and traumatic brain injury.
If you have lost a family member recently that was caused by another person or entity’s negligence, you might be entitled to receive compensation. Contact an Irvine wrongful death attorney at Crockett Law Group to find out how we can assist you during this painful and difficult time in your life. Call our personal injury lawyers in Irvine at (800) 900-9393 to schedule a free consultation for your claim.
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What Are the Elements Involved in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death claims, like all personal injury claim, basically have four elements that must be proved:
- A duty of care was owed to the deceased by the at-fault party.
- The at-fault party breached their duty of care.
- This breach caused the victim’s death.
- The death of the victim caused losses to the family.
For example, drivers owe pedestrians a duty of care when they are inside the marked crosswalk at the intersection of Fairview Street and 17th Street in Santa Ana. This duty of care is breached when a driver turns left and runs into a pedestrian inside the crosswalk. The pedestrian dies immediately at the accident scene due to blunt force trauma. The husband of the pedestrian does not work and depended on the deceased pedestrian for her support and love. The husband of the pedestrian can legitimately file a wrongful death claim against this driver who killed his wife.
What Damages Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Award?
The family members of the deceased can be awarded money damages in order to compensate them for losing a loved one.
According to California Civil Jury Instructions No. 3921, there are two kinds of damages that can be awarded to the family:
Economic damages are divided into four categories:
- Financial support, including support that would have been contributed by the decedent to the family over the decedent’s or family members’ lifetime, whichever is the shortest
- Benefits/Gifts includes the loss of benefits or gifts that the decedent could have been expected to give
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Household services, including the value of the household services that would have been provided by the decedent
Second, there are three categories of non-economic damages:
- Love, including the loss of love, moral support, society, affection, protection, care assistance, comfort, and companionship that the decedent would have provided
- Sex, including loss of sexual enjoyment between the decedent and loved one
- Guidance including the loss of the guidance and training of the decedent
In a California wrongful death lawsuit, there are no punitive damages available. However, punitive damages might be available through a survivorship claim that is filed on the decedent estate’s behalf.
Is There a Statute Of Limitations on California Wrongful Death Claims?
Yes, under California law you are required to file your lawsuit within a two-year period that starts on the date that the decedent died. Otherwise, you are at risk of being barred to ever do so.
For example, on April 1, 2020, a crossing guard who was in front of a Fullerton elementary school was struck and killed by a vehicle by a parent who was rushing to pick their child up from school. The spouse of the crossing guard will have until April 1, 2020, to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person who struck his spouse.
The Statute of Limitations has exceptions for medical malpractice, minors, and public entity claims. The best thing to do is to consult with a wrongful death lawyer in Irvine, CA.
Minors who have lost a parent have two years starting on their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit against the liable party.
According to the Government Tort Claims Act, when a wrongful death claim gets filed against a public entity, you have just 6 months from when the claim accrued to file a claim with the proper government agency. However, minors may submit an application asking for permission to file a claim later within a reasonable amount of time to no exceed one year following the injury. Then the public entity will have 45 days to deny or grant your claim. It is usually denied. You then will have 6 months from the date that your claim was denied to file your lawsuit.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim in Irvine Worth?
Wrongful death claim settlements, depending on the specific circumstances, typically will range from a low end of several hundred thousand dollars up to millions of dollars. Generally speaking, they tend to have a higher worth than most other types of claims.
The value of a specific wrongful death claim is going to depend on several different factors, including:
- The deceased’s age
- The deceased’s earning potential
- Whether or not the deceased was partly at fault for the accident
- The at-fault party’s insurance policy limits
- Whether the at-fault party is a public entity, corporation, or individual
It also can be helpful to review the wrongful death verdicts that have been made public in the state of California. According to Topverdict.com, 15 of the top California verdicts in 2019 were wrongful death claims. That means that wrongful death claims comprise around 30% of the highest verdicts from juries despite the fact that fatal car accidents are only a little more than one percent of the total car accident injuries, and are an even small percentage of total personal injury claims.
The top 20 wrongful death verdicts for 2019 in California ranged from $4 million up to $60 million. As you can see, wrongful death claims are among the most valuable personal injury claims. That is completely appropriate considering you have lost a loved one.
Who Receives Money in Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
In the state of California, it is mainly up to the deceased victim’s heirs and family members to divide the settlement money up. Ideally, everyone will agree to evenly divide up the settlement money. However, quite often, one member of the family was or financially dependent on the deceased relative than others. For example, the 13-year-old child of a deceased father may be more financially dependent than the 26-year-old child. In this situation, evenly distributing the settlement proceeds does not make sense.
If the rightful heirs cannot agree on how to divide the money, then they might consider binding arbitration or mediation to help determine the distribution.
What Is the Difference Between a Survival Action and Wrongful Death?
There are some notable differences between a survival action and a wrongful death claim. They include the following:
Who Files the Claim
The deceased individual’s family members bring a wrongful death claim, such as the spouse or children. A survival claim, by contrast, can be brought by the deceased individual’s estate’s personal representative.
The claim’s purpose: A wrongful death claim’s purpose is to compensate the family of the deceased person for their losses. A survival action’s purpose, by contrast, is compensating the deceased individual’s estate.
When the Claim Can Be Filed
You can bring a wrongful death claim anytime after a person dies due to another party’s wrongful conduct. By contrast, you can only bring a survival claim when the deceased individual has survived for some time after the accident but then eventually succumbed.
Damages That Are Available
The claimant of wrongful death can seek reimbursement for the loss of the deceased person’s love and companionship. In a survival claim, the damages that are available are limited under Civil Procedure 377.34 of the California Code to the damage or loss that the decedent incurred or sustained before death, including any exemplary or punitive damages or penalties that the decedent would have had the right to recover if he or she had lived. However, there are no damages available for disfigurement, or pain and suffering.
In California, there are no punitive damages available in wrongful death claims but in survival actions they are available.
It is also important to be aware that quite often a survival claim and wrongful death claim are brought at the same time. As you can see, these claims can become complex and confusing rather quickly. That is why you should hire a skilled and experienced wrongful death lawyer near Irvine to guide you through this legal area.
Crockett Law Group – Wrongful Death Attorneys In Irvine
As wrongful death attorneys, we represent the legal interests of victims on a regular basis who have been unfairly treated by insurance companies. At the Crockett Law Group, we are committed to managing your wrongful death claim from the beginning to the end. We will fight to ensure you obtain the money that you deserve. If you recently lost a family member that was caused by another person or entity’s negligence, call (800) 900-9393 for a free consultation with one of our wrongful death attorneys.