Hit and run accidents often make victims feel disrespected. It is extremely traumatic to be left alone at the scene of an accident. Those who cause hit and run accidents may need to be named as defendants in wrongful death cases if an accident victim dies due to their injuries. If you are seeking compensation for a hit and run accident then you need to know how a wrongful death claim may be necessary for your case.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death claims arise when a person dies due to the negligent conduct of another party. The statutory authority for wrongful death claims in California is California Civil Procedure 377.60. The following family members can assert wrongful death claims in California:
- Minors who are at least fifty percent dependent on the decedent for financial support
- Individuals who are entitled to the decedent’s property under the intestacy laws of California
- The decedent’s grandchildren (if the children are deceased)
- The decedent’s children
- The decedent’s domestic partner
- The decedent’s spouse
It is important to inform a wrongful death attorney about the decedent’s relations and who may have valid legal claims. Family members also need to cooperate and work together so they can have the best chance of obtaining monetary compensation.
You may need to prove that the hit and run driver acted maliciously or wantonly. To do so, you need to determine information about the driver, and this may be easier to do in specific areas where many automobile accidents take place. Areas such as Glendale and Pasadena have many drivers who operate their vehicles well in excess of the posted speed limit.
The Elements Of a Wrongful Death Claim
Every element of a wrongful death claim must be satisfied by a preponderance of the evidence. Essentially, this means a fifty percent or greater likelihood that some event occurred. The injured party must prove that the wrongful death occurred due to volitional action, neglect, or failure to offer reasonable care. Sometimes wrongful death cases occur in scenarios not involving automobiles, such as construction site accidents and cases involving medical malpractice.
The following are the elements of a wrongful death claim in California:
- The death of an individual
- Caused by the negligence or wrongful act of another party
- Survivors suffered financial loss
- A personal representative files the legal claim
Plaintiffs in the State of California must establish that the wrongful event was the direct cause of the victims’ death. The decedent’s surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim to seek monetary compensation for the loss of their loved one.
The Types of Damages Accident Victims May Claim in Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death cases typically can be divided into two main issues: (1) liability and (2) damages. The types of damages the surviving family members may seek are diverse. Damages are divided into economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
It is necessary to assess the total damages associated with your case. Economic damages include medical bills, funeral expenses, burial costs, and lost income. Non-economic damages include more subjective losses such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.
Punitive damages are not awarded in every case. However, in cases in which the defendant engages in egregious conduct, punitive damages are often awarded. Essentially, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant and to deter the defendant from committing the same conduct in the future. Defendants typically file motions to strike to argue that the Plaintiff is not entitled to punitive damages. Pedestrian accidents are common accident cases in which injured parties seek punitive damages.
If your family member lost their life in a hit and run accident it is extremely important that you provide your attorney with a comprehensive medical summary. The medical bills associated with the decedent’s treatment will also be important in calculating the total damages amount in a case.
You will also need to substantiate your legal claims by bringing forth real evidence, testimonial evidence, and documentary evidence. These types of evidence will help you present a detailed overview of the hit and run accident and your loved one’s death.
Wrongful Death Claims and the Statute of Limitations in California
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in California is two years from the date of death. The surviving family members may lose their right to seek financial compensation for their loss if they do not assert a wrongful death claim within the statutory period.
You cannot rest on your rights and hope that everything will turn out for the best. It is imperative that you take action to improve the likelihood that you can recover financial compensation. Suffering the loss of a family member is emotionally painful. However, if you provide sufficient information to an attorney regarding your claims, then you will have a better chance of obtaining justice for your family member.
Survival Actions Are Distinct From Wrongful Death Actions
Survival actions are legal claims which permit the decedent to assert a claim that they could have filed if they had survived. The following are the most important parts of a survival claim in California.
The Foundation of the Claim
The basis of a survival claim is connected to the claims the decedent had at the time of their death. These claims may be for property damage, personal injury, and other losses.
The Survival Action is Brought By the Estate
The decedent’s estate asserts a survival action. The family members and dependents do not bring survival actions. An executor of the decedent’s estate will often file the lawsuit.
The damages the estate may recover in a survival action include property damage, lost income, and the medical bills the decedent accrued before their death. But survival actions do not permit recovery from disfigurement, suffering, or pain.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations in California for a survival claim is two years from the date of the injury. If the decedent lived for a period of time after the date of the accident then the statute of limitations may be longer.
The Benefits of Retaining a Wrongful Death Attorney
Suffering injuries during a hit and run accident can be devastating. However, losing a loved one due to the negligent and irresponsible conduct of another person can be emotionally overwhelming. The benefits of retaining a wrongful death accident attorney are numerous.
One of the most important benefits is the attorney-client relationship itself. The client does not have to share communications they have with their attorney. Also, attorney-client privilege will allow individuals to protect their information by invoking this privilege throughout the course of a civil lawsuit.
A wrongful death attorney will also be able to help you during settlement negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. These are known as different forms of alternative dispute resolution. It is likely that a case will settle during one of these events, and therefore having an attorney on your side can improve your overall case strategy.
Our friend recently lost his mother during a hit and run accident. One of our attorneys now represented both the estate and the family members in these cases. Contact the Shirvanian Law Firm today. We will ensure that you receive exceptional legal representation, and our attorneys will conduct an internal investigation to determine if we can identify and locate the hit and run driver.