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Car accidents and wrongful death: What do I need to know?

On Behalf of | May 5, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Losing someone to a car accident can be difficult for several reasons. On top of the emotional turmoil that usually comes with a loved one’s death, you also have to deal with various financial obligations, such as hospital and funeral expenses. If the incident somehow involved human error, proving wrongful death might help alleviate some of the financial impact.

What is wrongful death?

Wrongful death in a car accident occurs when the fatal incident likely occurred because of another person’s:

  • Recklessness
  • Negligence
  • Criminal activity

In California, surviving family members, such as the deceased individual’s spouse or children, may generally file a wrongful death claim within two years after the incident. A successful wrongful death claim will likely result in the defendant paying damages in the form of money to the family of the deceased.

How do you build a wrongful death case?

These cases often move forward using the legal theory of negligence. You generally have to prove three elements to build this type of case:

  • That a duty of care exists, such as drivers having a duty to concentrate on the road and avoid distracting activities
  • That the at-fault individual breached this duty, such as drivers texting while operating their car
  • That the driver’s breach of duty resulted in another person’s death

Different records relevant to the incident might help build your case. For instance, phone records at the time of the accident might help show that the accident happened because the driver was texting while driving. Or if you suspect that the driver was intoxicated, you may consider police records regarding the driver’s blood alcohol levels at the time if the court will accept the records as evidence.

A successful wrongful death claim might help lighten the financial burden of losing a loved one. However, building a successful case can be difficult. Having the assistance of someone who knows the law and has experience with similar cases can help make the process less of a challenge.