The most serious car and truck accidents in California can be fatal. When a driver or passenger dies in an accident, surviving family members have a potential cause of action against the driver of the other vehicle. If successful, family members can recover compensation for losses attributable to the wrongful death, including lost wages, injuries, funeral expenses, and loss of companionship.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
In California, only certain family member of the decedent can file a wrongful death claim with two years of the decedent’s death. These family members include:
- Spouse or domestic partner of the decedent
- Children of decedent
- Grandchildren of the decedent (but only if the decedent’s children are also deceased)
- Minor children (e.g. decedent’s stepchildren, decedent’s parents) dependent on the decedent for at least 50 percent of financial support
Proving a wrongful death claim
In order to recover damages for a wrongful death, family members must show that another party’s actions caused the accident that killed their loved one. Most cases involve establishing negligence. For example, if filing a claim against a negligent driver, surviving members may have to show:
- The driver breached a duty owed to the decedent by violating a traffic law or driving recklessly.
- The driver’s breach of duty directly and proximately caused the accident.
- The accident resulted in the death of the decedent.
While financial compensation will never ease the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one, it can help the family overcome the financial difficulties that go along with the loss.