Almost 3000 people die every day on the road due to distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report. Despite many road safety laws and increasing penalties, distracted driving incidents are increasing each day. A majority of the accidents occurring on the Santa Ana freeway occur in places where there are Stop and Go traffic, where constant attention is needed. In situations where cars are close together, a high level of attention is needed because sight miscalculation can cause a serious car accident.
This is why victims of distracted driving accidents suffer serious injuries like TBI (traumatic brain injury), blindness, paralysis, and even death. If your loved one has lost their life because of another person’s negligence, speak to a Santa Ana wrongful death attorney to learn if you are entitled to receive compensation. Contact the personal injury attorneys in Santa Ana at Crockett Law Group today at (800) 900-9393 to learn your legal options.
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Which Are the Fundamentals of a Wrongful Death Claim?
Just like any personal injury claim, wrongful death litigation has four fundamentals, which must be proven. They are:
- The duty of care was breached by an at-fault party
- The at-fault party owes the deceased a duty of care
- The at-fault party caused losses to a victim’s family
- The breach of care caused the victim’s death
For example, all drivers own a duty of care to pedestrians while at specific pedestrian specified walkways or crosswalks like 17th Street. A driver will have breached his duty when they turn left and hit a pedestrian within the crosswalk. If this occurs and the pedestrian dies due to blunt force trauma, the victim’s family has a legal right to file a wrongful death claim against the driver.
Which Damages Are Awarded in a Wrongful Death Litigation?
All damages are awarded in monetary value, which is given to a family member as a way to compensate them for the loss. According to the California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 3921, wrongful death compensation or damages is divided into two:
These damages are divided into four parts:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Benefits and gifts: This generally includes the benefits and gifts you could have received from the loved one.
- Financial Support: This is a form of compensation that covers financial support the deceased would have contributed to the family during their lifetime or decedents’ lifetime
- Household Services: This covers the value of household services the deceased would have provided.
Noneconomic damages can be divided into three parts:
- Sex: This type of compensation includes loss of sexual enjoyment.
- Love: This compensation includes the loss of a companion, care assistance, comfort, affection, protection, moral support, society, and so on.
- Guidance: This covers the loss of guidance and training.
NOTE: Punitive damages are not available in wrongful death litigation in California. It may be available, however, through survivorship claims made on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
What Is the Statute of Limitation of Wrongful Death Litigation in California?
California has a statute of limitations when it comes to wrongful death claims, which is two years from the date of the accident. However, there are a few exceptions when it comes to minors, public entities, and medical malpractice claims. To prevent being denied compensation, it is wise to consult with a professional and highly skilled wrongful death lawyer near Santa Ana. In fact, with the help of a skilled attorney, your chances of getting the compensation you deserve increases.
The exceptions are:
If your wrongful death claim is against any public entity, then according to the Government Tort Claims Act, a person has only six months to build up a case and file with the appropriate government agency. If the claim involves a minor and a public entity, then the minor can submit an application to file the claim late as long as it is within a reasonable time that does not exceed one year. After filing a claim, a public entity has 45 days to either deny or accept a claim, although in most cases, it is going to be denied. After this, you have six months from the date of the denial to file a court case.
A minor who has lost a parent has two years from their 18th year birthday to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
How Much Is a Wrongful Death Case Worth?
A wrongful death settlement ranges between a few hundred thousand to many millions of dollars, depending on the circumstances. However, they tend to be worth more than any other personal injury claim. Of course, there are many different factors that will affect the value of any wrongful death claim. These factors include:
- Earning potential of the late
- The age of the deceased
- If the late shared any fault
- If the at-fault party is a public entity, corporation, or individual
- Insurance policy limit of the at-fault party
- The verdict made for wrongful deaths
According to Topverdict.com, 15 out of 50 verdicts in California were Wrongful death claims in 2019. According to this information, wrongful death claims make up about 30% of the verdicts, even though fatal vehicle-related accidents make less than 1% of all vehicle injuries. This number is even smaller compared to personal injury claims.
Furthermore, the same year (2019) top 20 wrongful death litigation verdicts in California ranged between $4 million to $60 million. With this information, it is clear that wrongful death claims are one of the most valuable claims when it comes to personal injury cases.
Who Is Entitled to Receive Wrongful Death Compensation?
According to California law, it is the heirs or deceased family to decide how they are going to divide the settlement. In most cases, family members agree to split the settlement money evenly. However, there are situations where one family member was more financially dependent on the late compared to others. For example, a 13-year-old child may be more financially dependent on a deceased father compared to a 26-year-old child. In such a situation, it will not make sense to distribute the settlement amount evenly.
If an agreement is not reached among the rightful heirs, they may then consider mediation or binding arbitration to help them decide.
What Is the Difference Between Survival Action and Wrongful Death?
There are a few noteworthy differences between survival action and wrongful death claims. These differences include:
Who Files the Claim
A survival claim is filed by a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, whereas a deceased family member files a wrongful death claim.
The Claim’s Purpose
The main purpose of a survival action claim is to compensate the deceased person’s estate, whereas the purpose of a wrongful death claim is to compensate the deceased family members or heirs.
The Time Limit for Filing the Claim
A wrongful death claim can only be filed only when a person has died because of another party’s negligence. On the other hand, a survival claim can only be filed when a deceased person survived for some time after the accident before they fully succumb to their injuries.
In a wrongful death claim, a loved one can seek compensation for the loss of a companion. On the other hand, survival claims are limited and governed by California Code of Civil Procedure 377.34, which states that “In a proceeding or action by the decedent’s successor or personal representative in the interest of a decedent’s reason for the action; the damages redeemable are restricted to damages or losses the decedent incurred or sustained before death. This will include punitive or penalties.” However, it is important to note that a survival claim does not cover suffering, pain, or disfigurement.
In a wrongful death claim, punitive damages do not apply according to California law. However, when it comes to survival action, punitive damages apply according to the California Code of Civil Procedure 377.34.
NOTE: In most cases, both wrongful death and survival claims are brought together in a court case. By simply looking at the difference, it is clear that both are different and can be complex and difficult to comprehend. This is why it is important to seek the services of an experienced Santa Ana Wrongful Death Attorney that will help you navigate through all the complex areas of the law.
Why Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer With Crockett Law Group in Santa Ana?
Our wrongful death lawyers place the needs of our clients ahead of everything. We offer personalized services, and we will work towards ensuring you get the compensation you deserve, especially if you have been treated unfairly by an insurance company.
At Crockett Law Group, we are committed and will handle your case from the start to the end. Therefore, if you have lost a loved one as a result of another person’s negligence, contact our highly skilled wrongful death attorneys at (800) 900-9393. By speaking to a lawyer, you will get to learn more about your legal options and ways to protect your rights.