What Happens If a Family Member Dies In a Car Accident?

looking out a car front window and semi-trucks and in the right lane

Over 40,000 Americans die in car accidents every year. California residents account for 10%, or 4,000, of those deaths. While cars are integral to our everyday lives, the inherent danger does not fade. In today's world of distractions, technology, and poorly maintained roadways, car accidents are an unpleasant truth we must prepare for. While we can do everything in our power to drive safely and responsibly, the risk of adverse drivers texting, speeding, driving under the influence, and numerous other reasons can often make it impossible to avoid a car accident. With those accidents, unfortunately, many can result in the loss of a family member or loved one. In the wake of such a tragedy, it is always worth hiring a car accident lawyer to help navigate the legal aftermath.

If you or a family member has been involved in a car accident. Please do not hesitate to call the qualified and competent car accident attorneys at Chandler Law. We have navigated thousands of car accident cases, including accident cases that involve the wrongful death of a family member or loved one.

What Family Members Can Sue for Wrongful Death From a Car Accident?

If another driver’s negligence causes death or injury, their insurance owes you. Tragedies such as this are the reason every driver is required to carry automobile insurance if they want to drive on public roads. In order to pursue a lawsuit, you must have legal standing. In California, legal standing for people seeking justice from a car accident is detailed in California Code of Civil Procedure §377.60. In California, there are numerous relationship types that have legal standing to bring a lawsuit forward.

If you’d like to know if you have standing to bring a claim for a car accident leading to the wrongful death of a loved one, please feel free to call our team at Chandler Law; we can help you navigate and find much-needed answers in this extremely difficult time.

What Damages are Available in a Wrongful Death Car Accident Claim?

Wrongful death damages in California can be broken into the following categories:

  1. Funeral expenses
  2. Pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship
  3. Loss of consortium, meaning the loss of a family relationship.
  4. Loss of financial support that a person would have otherwise provided during their lifetime.

Additionally, an heir may be entitled to survivorship damages. These are damages that include the pain, suffering, and disfigurement of the decedent before they ultimately pass away. If a loved one spent the last months of their life in pain, fighting injuries, those damages no longer disappear on the individual's death. Under California law, a successor in interest may be entitled to recover those damages on behalf of the decedent, which then passes through their estate. This type of damage is the only damage in a wrongful death case that opens the doors to punitive damages for the negligent parties' conduct.

When Is a Party Liable for a Wrongful Death that They Cause?

A party is typically liable because they acted with negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, or they committed an intentional wrongful act. While this can often be the case in car accident cases, there are other types of personal injury cases in which a person can make a wrongful death claim. These include slip and fall accidents, elder abuse, medical malpractice, neglect, dog attacks, assault, battery, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, boating accidents, bicycle accidents, and many more.

If a loved one has recently passed away due to the negligent, intentional, or reckless conduct of a third party, it is important to find a qualified personal injury attorney near you to protect your rights.

How Does a Wrongful Death Car Accident Lawsuit Work?

In California, a lawsuit arising out of the wrongful death of a family member or loved one works similarly to a standard car accident injury claim. The main difference is that the decedent is not the individual pursuing the claim. Instead, this responsibility falls to a close family member or someone otherwise entitled by way of intestate succession.

Generally, a person who has standing to bring a claim for wrongful death has two years from the date of the death to bring a lawsuit. There are certain exceptions and entities which may make this longer or shorter. Before a lawsuit is filed, it is often beneficial to attempt informal negotiations through an attorney sending a demand letter for compensation. This often will request a certain amount of compensation, and in exchange, the party will waive their right to bring a wrongful death claim. If this does not work, a lawsuit will likely be necessary.

Proving Wrongful Death in a Car Accident Case

Proving fault or liability is one of the most important pieces to a successful wrongful death claim. An experienced personal injury attorney may be able to help you navigate this. The general elements to prove liability are that a party had a duty of care, that they breached that duty, that the breach in the duty of care caused the injury, and that there was some injury or damages. If you can prove these four elements, it may be possible to bring a successful wrongful death claim.

Wrongful Death Settlements and Verdicts are Not Taxable

A real concern clients may have is the taxability of a wrongful death settlement. A sudden influx of money may cause concern that you have to write a huge check to the IRS. This is not true; when a personal injury attorney secures a wrongful death settlement or verdict, even in car accident wrongful death cases, the settlement proceeds are not taxable.

As with anything, there are exceptions. Certain types of damages may be taxable. The breakdown of the settlement or verdict determines this. Navigating these damages and potential tax implications can be exceedingly challenging. That is why hiring a qualified personal injury attorney to help navigate this field is so important.

Contact a Qualified Fresno Personal Injury Attorney Today

You are not alone in this journey. Chandler Law stands ready to assist you through every step of the legal process. Our experienced car accident attorneys have handled thousands of cases involving accidents and wrongful deaths, offering compassionate guidance and fierce advocacy for our clients. Contact Chandler Law today to schedule a free case consultation and take the first step towards holding accountable those responsible for your loss.

Schedule a free case evaluation with Chandler Law by contacting us at (559) 825-2318. Hablamos español.

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