A little over 10 percent of all fatal drunk driving accidents in the US occur right here in California, according to the most recent numbers coming from the National Highway & Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). That’s over 1,000 people killed each year in our state, all due to drunk drivers.
If you’ve lost someone you love in a drunk driving accident in California, you need to know your options for moving forward. You need the help of a skilled personal injury lawyer to understand how a wrongful death claim would work in your situation.
First, Determine if You Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim
A civil claim for wrongful death involves an aggrieved party pursuing a lawsuit against the drunk driver in civil court. Before you can file your case, you must first be able to prove that you fall within one of the named categories of parties who are able to bring such claims in California civil courts.
According to California’s wrongful death statute (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 337.60, et seq.), the following parties may pursue such a claim:
- The deceased’s surviving spouse
- The deceased’s surviving domestic partner
- The deceased’s surviving children
- Issue of the deceased’s children
- Absent one of the above, then anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent [deceased] by intestate succession”
In addition, these individuals may also bring a wrongful death suit:
- Anyone who was financially dependent on the deceased
- The deceased’s putative spouse
- Children of the deceased’s putative spouse
- The deceased’s parents
- A minor who lived with the decedent for at least the previous 180 days and was dependent on the decedent for at least one-half of all financial support
If some of this terminology is confusing, rest assured that a skilled personal injury attorney can speak with you to help you determine whether you can bring a wrongful death claim in California civil court.
Next, Determine the Damages You Can Seek
Assuming you can bring a claim, you will be able to seek damages (financial recovery) for many costs associated with your loss, including:
- Funeral and related final expenses
- Medical expenses incurred after the drunk driving accident
- Lost income, including the deceased’s lost potential income
- Loss of anticipated financial support
- Loss of household services
- Loss of love, companionship, support, affection, comfort and care
Additionally, punitive damages—also known as exemplary damages—arise in wrongful death cases to punish the drunk driver for their behavior. Courts also allow them due to the message they send to the community at large: this behavior is not tolerated and, as such, deserves additional consequences.
Punitive damages are never guaranteed in wrongful death claims against drunk drivers. That is why it’s important to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you layout your case clearly and help you prove all necessary elements of your claim.
Let a Skilled Lawyer Help You With Your Wrongful Death Claim
If you’ve lost a loved one due to a fatal drunk-driving crash within the past two years, speak with an injury attorney about pursuing a wrongful death claim. Your attorney will help you determine what you’ll need to prove, the evidence you’ll need to do so, and how to best prepare you for the coming days and months of discovery and, potentially, trial.
If you’re in California, consider reaching out to the Law Office of Daniel H. Rose. We’ll sit with you in a complimentary consultation and help you determine if you have a claim to pursue. If you do, we’ll walk alongside you to get you the justice you deserve after losing your loved one. To schedule a consultation, contact us today at 415-946-8900.