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California Fatal Car Accident Lawyers

Your whole world can change instantly in a car accident, especially when someone you love passes away. All it takes is a bad split-second decision that ruins multiple people’s lives. Your family member might’ve followed all traffic regulations, but another driver’s negligence or recklessness resulted in a collision. Certain family members have legal rights following a fatal crash. To learn more, speak with a California fatal car accident lawyer at Silva Injury Law.

While no amount of money will bring your loved one back, filing a lawsuit can get some justice for the deceased. There may or may not be a criminal case depending on the circumstances. That’s why filing a civil suit can bring some sense of justice to surviving family members. Civil suits in fatal car accidents are called wrongful death lawsuits. These legal actions differ from a standard car accident lawsuit in several ways. Read on to learn more about wrongful death lawsuits and why you should hire a fatal car accident attorney.

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What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful death means a death caused by someone else’s wrongful actions. This action could be intentional, negligent, or foolish, falling under civil or criminal laws. Someone who passes away in their sleep is not a wrongful death victim. However, someone who dies in a car accident due to another driver running a red light is.

Under California’s wrongful death laws, specific surviving family members have the legal right to pursue compensation from the defendants. The payment you can receive in a claim arising from a fatal car accident is not the same as for your typical non-fatal car accident lawsuit.

Civil vs. Criminal Fatal Car Accident Cases

It’s important to point out that a civil lawsuit for wrongful death differs significantly from a criminal case. Some surviving family members assume if the state presses charges against the defendant, they don’t need to bring a civil suit. That’s not true at all. Wrongful death lawsuits involve money, not a loss of freedom. If the State of California brings criminal charges, your family can still file a wrongful death lawsuit for financial compensation.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

Every state is different, and California has its laws on who has legal grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit following a car accident. Loved ones can file a lawsuit in the following order:

  • The surviving spouse,
  • The surviving domestic partner (or a putative spouse), or
  • The surviving children and grandchildren.

The order gets a bit more complicated when the deceased does not have any surviving family members listed above. California’s wrongful death law says that someone with the right to inherit the deceased’s assets has the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Potential examples include a parent or sibling. The order will depend on who is alive when the victim died.

Someone financially dependent on the deceased might also have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, the deceased might’ve had a stepchild. Determining who has legal rights in a wrongful death lawsuit can be complex. That’s one reason why you need an experienced California fatal car accident attorney to represent you.

Compensation in a Fatal Car Accident

When you file a wrongful death lawsuit for a California fatal accident, you’re pursuing compensation for your damages rather than those of the deceased. A typical car accident injury lawsuit involves damages such as the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. With a wrongful death lawsuit, surviving family members seek compensation for their losses, such as loss of companionship, financial support, consortium loss, and more.

The amount you might receive varies on individual circumstances and the strength of your evidence. When you hire Silva Injury Law to represent you, we’ll work tirelessly to collect and preserve evidence that supports your case. We want to help your family recover the maximum compensation possible after the tragic death of your family member. The responsible parties should all be held accountable.

Survival Actions vs. Wrongful Death Lawsuits

If the victim had not passed away from their injuries, they could’ve filed a lawsuit for their own injuries. These damages do not fall under a wrongful death lawsuit in California. Instead, there’s something called a survival action. A survival action allows a representative of the deceased’s estate to bring a claim for the victim’s damages. Potential damages include:

  • Medical expenses for the deceased’s treatment before their death,
  • Lost wages for the deceased between the accident date and their date of death,
  • Property damage for the deceased’s vehicle; and
  • Pain and suffering the deceased experienced before their death.

The ability to recover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering is new as of January 1, 2022. Anyone who recovers compensation for non-economic damages in a survival action must report the amount to the Judicial Council. That’s because the law is set to expire on January 1, 2026. The Judicial Council is compiling statistics and reporting back to the California Legislature.

How a California Fatal Car Accident Lawyer Can Assist You

Pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit is complicated. It would be best if you had a skilled legal advocate to handle your claim’s legal aspects. Your family has been through enough. You shouldn’t have to worry about fighting with the defendant’s insurance company on top of grieving the death of your family member.

There are some tricky aspects of California law that can impact your case. For one, California is a pure comparative negligence state. Even when someone is partially responsible for a car accident, they can collect some damages. Imagine a scenario where the deceased was 20% at fault. That means you might receive 80% of your wrongful death damages. If the deceased were 85% at fault, you would receive 15%.

Hiring an experienced fatal car accident lawyer to represent you means we can protect you from the defendant’s insurance company, who will try to place the majority of the blame on the deceased. When you hire Silva Injury Law, we’ll negotiate on your behalf and not let the insurance adjuster take advantage of you. Attorney Michael Joe Silva has previous experience working as a prosecutor in Merced County. That means you’re benefiting from both his criminal and his civil litigation experience.

Surviving family members have only a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Typically, you only have two years from the date of death. If you miss the filing deadline, the court will dismiss your case and you’ll receive nothing. Don’t jeopardize your potential compensation by trying to handle a wrongful death claim independently. Contact Silva Injury Law today to schedule a consultation. We understand what a challenging time this is for you and your family. Let us help you in your family’s time of need.

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