Wrongful Death in a Car Accident
The definition of wrongful death in California is the death of a victim caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another person or party. A fatal car accident in Los Angeles could give you grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit as a surviving family member if the other driver reasonably could have prevented the collision. Although nothing can make up for the tragic loss of your loved one’s life, a wrongful death lawsuit can bring justice and compensate your family.
What Causes Fatal Car Accidents in Los Angeles, California?
If the other driver or someone else caused or contributed to your loved one’s fatal car accident, that party may be financially responsible (liable) for the death. Driver error is a leading cause of fatal motor vehicle collisions in Los Angeles and throughout the state. For example, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a total of 3,142 people lost their lives in distracted driving accidents in 2019 alone.
Drivers can make many mistakes behind the wheel that put the lives of surrounding roadway users at risk. Common examples of deadly driver errors include:
- Texting and driving
- Alcohol and drug use
- Reckless and aggressive driving
- Drowsy driving
- Excessive speeding
- Violating roadway rules
- Running red lights and stop signs
- Unsafe lane changes
- Illegal turns
If a driver is negligent, it means he or she is careless behind the wheel and this causes a collision. If a driver is reckless, he or she knows that an action poses a risk of harm to others but does it anyway. Either way, a driver’s mistakes can make him or her liable for a fatal car accident in California. Other common causes of deadly wrecks include roadway hazards, bad weather and defective auto parts.
Can You Sue for Wrongful Death After a Fatal Car Accident?
The ability to file a lawsuit for wrongful death in California depends on the circumstances of the fatal collision. As a surviving family member of someone who lost his or her life in a deadly car accident, you or your Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer will need to prove four elements for a valid wrongful death lawsuit:
- The defendant owed the decedent a duty of care. The party allegedly at fault for the accident (the defendant) must have had a legal responsibility to prevent harm to your loved one. In California, all drivers have a duty of care to drive in a way that does not injure others.
- The defendant breached his or her duty of care. The defendant must have committed some type of error or wrongdoing that fell short of the duty of care.
- The defendant caused the fatal car accident. The defendant’s action or failure to act must be a direct cause of the motor vehicle accident that took your loved one’s life.
- Compensable losses suffered. Your family must have suffered economic or noneconomic losses from the death of your loved one, such as the loss of the decedent’s earnings, companionship and care.
If you or your wrongful death lawyer can prove these elements as more likely to be true than untrue, you can most likely achieve a settlement or jury verdict paying you and your loved ones for tangible and intangible losses.
What Is the Time Limit to File?
California has a law called a statute of limitations that limits a plaintiff’s right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. With only rare exceptions, if you miss the statute of limitations, the courts will not allow you and your family to recover financial compensation for your loved one’s death. In California, the time limit is two years from the date of the decedent’s death, in most cases.
Consult with an attorney as soon as possible after a tragic car accident to begin your wrongful death lawsuit. The attorneys at Rose, Klein & Marias, LLP offer free initial consultations in Los Angeles.