What if a California Car Accident Causes a Wrongful Death?

What if a California Car Accident Causes a Wrongful Death?

Car crash victims that suffer losses and injuries in California automobile accidents can generally sue and recover damages from the negligent party that caused the accident. When someone dies as a result of another party’s negligence in an auto accident, the deceased person’s family can file a lawsuit for wrongful death and can recover compensation for the expenses and damages they incurred due to their family member’s death.   

The Los Angeles car accident lawyers at Ellis Injury Law represent individuals and their families in Southern California personal injury lawsuits, including car crash negligence and wrongful death cases. We fight tirelessly to recover the full amount of damages from every party whose negligence contributed to auto accidents that cause grievous fatalities.   

What is required to prove wrongful death in a car accident case? 

Wrongful death claims are a form of negligence. The family of a victim that died in a car crash will need to show the same elements as in other kinds of negligence lawsuits: 

  • The negligent party owed a certain duty of care to the accident victim. This is a relatively straightforward matter in car crash cases because every person that operates a motor vehicle on public roads must do so in a reasonably safe manner in view of prevailing weather and road conditions. 
  • The negligent party did not live up to his or her duty of care. A car accident lawyer will prove this by showing, for example, that the negligent party was speeding, driving while intoxicated, ignoring right-of-way and other traffic laws, or using a cell phone that distracted him or her from road and traffic conditions.  
  • The negligent party’s failure was the direct and proximate cause of the accident. In every car accident lawsuit, the specific facts and circumstances of the accident will show whether and to what extent a party’s negligence caused the crash. 
  • The accident victim died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.  A medical examiner’s certificate and expert testimony will usually be proof of the cause of the victim’s death.  

What damages can a deceased party’s family recover on account of a wrongful death? 

Every wrongful death will impose excessive costs and burdens on the accident victim’s family, including funeral expenses and loss of financial support, companionship, and guidance. A negligent party and that party’s liability insurance company will push back and argue that these damages are limited. A knowledgeable and experienced wrongful death attorney will be the family’s best advocate to negotiate and argue for the largest available damages award to compensate for all of these losses and to challenge the insurers that would rather not pay for the family’s losses. 

Although a car accident victim’s family members can recover their economic and non-economic losses in a wrongful death lawsuit, they cannot recover punitive damages from the negligent party, regardless of how egregious that party’s conduct might have been. If, however, the victim did not die immediately in the accident but succumbed to injuries in the days or weeks afterward, car accident attorneys might be able to file a survivor action on behalf of the victim’s estate. California law does recognize punitive damages claims in survivor actions. 

What parties may be liable for wrongful death damages? 

An experienced car crash lawyer will consider all parties that have potential liability for wrongful death in a California automobile accident lawsuit: 

  • other drivers that operated their vehicles negligently 
  • the other driver’s employer if the accident involved a commercial vehicle that was on the job at the time 
  • if the other driver was intoxicated, the parties that provided drugs or alcohol to that driver in violation of any laws 
  • vehicle manufacturers or repair shops that negligently built or repaired a vehicle 
  • state or local municipalities that failed to repair road defects or to provide safe roadways.  

Call the Los Angeles offices of Ellis Injury Law for representation in a wrongful death lawsuit after your family member suffers fatal injuries in a car crash   

The personal injury lawyers at Ellis Injury Law have more than 25 years of experience in representing aggrieved parties in wrongful death lawsuits. In that time, we have collected more than $350 million in damages for our Southern California clients.  

Please see our website or call us as soon as you can after your loved one has died in a car accident for a complimentary consultation with one of our wrongful death car accident attorneys.