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Recovering Compensation for Personal Injuries From a Drunk Driver

Have you or a loved one been injured as a result of another person’s decision to get behind the wheel after drinking too much alcohol? May, for all its beauty, is also a time of danger. With millions of young people celebrating graduation, whether from secondary school, college, or beyond, alcohol will inevitably be consumed. All too often, when alcohol is consumed in the context of celebration, it is consumed to the point of excess. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to drunkenness, and when this state of impaired mental faculties is combined with the poor and dangerous decision to get behind the wheel of a car, truck, or other vehicle, tragedy can ensue. This grave possibility lingers around every graduation celebration in which alcohol is involved – and especially those in more remote areas in which there is no access to public transportation, taxis, Uber, or Lyft.

If this dark possibility has become a reality and resulted in an accident in which you or a loved one were injured by a drunk driver, contact a skilled and experienced California personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney will hold the at-fault driver responsible for his or her dangerously selfish decision-making, and seek the full compensation you are entitled to for your injuries, medical and auto repair bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.

Damages Awarded in a Personal Injury Suit Against a Drunk Driver

When a person chooses to get behind the wheel of an automobile while under the influence of alcohol, he or she has acted negligently. Negligence is a legal doctrine. Specifically, negligence is a breach of a duty of care owed to another person that results in damages. Driving under the influence (DUI) is a breach of the duty of safe driving. Alcohol impairs the mental faculties, slows reaction times, and can lead to speeding, swerving, and even passing out at the wheel.  This brings us to damages, the final aspect of establishing negligence. It is the element of causation – of linking the breach of the duty of safe driving – to the personal injuries you have suffered that completes the tort of negligence. This linking is what justifies imposing legal and financial liability on the at-fault driver.  It is about justice – about holding the at-fault party responsible for the harm suffered by the innocent party.  

While court imposed liability cannot, unfortunately, “unbreak” your bones, it can provide financial restitution. Specifically, in a personal injury lawsuit against a drunk driver, you may seek compensation for your injuries, medical bills, car repair bills, lost income due to missed work, pain and suffering, and other losses. Finally, if you were not injured, but instead tragically lost a loved in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver. To discuss the specifics of your situation, contact a skilled and experienced California personal injury attorney. A dedicated attorney will fight to obtain the full compensation to which you are entitled.  

Bringing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in the State of California

Nothing hurts more than losing a loved one long before their time as the result of another person’s carelessness, recklessness, or intentionally wrongful act. First, there is the shock, grief, and sense of the loss one experiences. Then, there may be fears over the loss of financial support provided by the loved one. Finally, there is the deep need for justice. California’s Wrongful Death laws exist to make the pursuit of justice possible and to help the survivors of the deceased seek financial compensation for the support they were deprived of by a senseless act of carelessness, recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing. If your loved one has suffered a wrongful death, contact a dedicated and experienced California wrongful death attorney.  Nothing can undo the loss you have experienced, but a wrongful death lawsuit can greatly aid your plight as a survivor.

The California Code of Civil Procedure Governs California Wrongful Death Lawsuits

California’s wrongful death law is California Code of Civil Procedure 337.60, et seq. It specifies what constitutes a wrongful death in the state, which survivors may file a wrongful death claim, and what damages are available to survivors through a wrongful death claim. Under the statute, a wrongful death occurs when a person is fatally injured as the result of the negligence or wrongful act of another person, corporation, institution, or entity. Negligence encompasses both carelessness and recklessness. Specifically, negligence is a breach of a duty of care owed that results in damages.

For example, we all owe duties of safe driving in accordance with the rules and regulations of the road to one another. If another person drives drunk and causes a fatal car crash, the fatality is considered a wrongful death under California’s wrongful death law. From this wrongful death arises a wrongful death legal claim. Only certain “survivors” of the deceased may rightfully bring the wrongful death claim. Eligible survivors include the surviving spouse, domestic partner, and children. If there is no surviving spouse, domestic partner, or child to bring the claim, the state allows for a wrongful death claim to be brought by anyone who would be entitled to inherit the property of the deceased through the process of intestate succession. In other words, if the deceased died without a spouse, partner, or children, and without a valid will, parents and other relatives may be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim.

Types of Damages Available to Survivors Under a Wrongful Death Claim

A California wrongful death claim makes available to survivors a number of damages, including lost income, loss of anticipated financial support, funeral and burial expenses, and other losses. If you have lost a loved one to a wrongful death in the state of California, contact an experienced California wrongful death attorney. Time is of the essence, as the state imposes a two-year statute of limitation from the date of death on the filing of a valid wrongful death claim .

Help for Wrongful Death Victims in California

A personal injury suffered because of the carelessness, recklessness, or intentionally wrongful act of another can upend one’s life for an extended period of time. The wrongful death of a loved one under such circumstances changes one’s life forever. While nothing can ever bring back your loved one, California’s wrongful death statute provides a means of seeking compensation from the individual, corporation, or institution responsible.

Understanding How California Defines a “Wrongful Death”

In the state of California, a “wrongful death” is a death that is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another person. In understanding a legal definition, every word matters. By wrongful act, the law means an intentional act – meaning that the action was commenced with at least a basal level of purpose, as opposed to by accident. Neglect is a slightly more broad category; it typically encompasses both negligence and recklessness. Negligence is the breach of duty of care owed that results in damages, and recklessness usually amounts to failing to act like a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances.  If any one of these categories – intentionally wrongful conduct, negligent conduct, reckless conduct – causes the death of another person, a wrongful death claim exists.

Common Circumstances in Which a Wrongful Death May Occur

The circumstances in which a wrongful death may occur are similar to those in which personal injury actions arise. Examples include car accidents, bike accidents, construction site injuries, and slip and fall accidents. What makes the action wrongful death instead of personal injury is the occurrence of a death.  Importantly, the death need not occur at the moment of wrongful conduct, negligence, or recklessness; an injury suffered that later results in death (while in the hospital, for example) may still create a wrongful death action.

Who is Eligible to Bring a Wrongful Death Action

Just as California law governs what constitutes a wrongful death, it controls what persons may bring a wrongful death lawsuit for damages. Obviously, the individual who has suffered the wrongful death cannot bring suit (because he or she is no longer living). Instead, the wrongful death cause of action is said to “survive” the deceased. Under state law, individuals who may bring the surviving action include the decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children. “Deceased” and “decedent” are simply legal terms for the individual who is no longer living.

Damages Available in a California Wrongful Death Claim

In a wrongful death claim, damages are measured in terms of financial compensation. In this context, they are meant to compensate surviving family members for the losses they have suffered as a result of the wrongful death. Again, nothing can make up for the loss of companionship of a loved one, but wrongful death damages can account for such things as funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, lost income and financial support, and the value of domestic services. Critically, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two (2) years of the date of death, so it is imperative that individuals surviving the death of a loved one contact an experienced California wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in California

A wrongful death claim arises when someone dies due to the negligence of another person or entity. Survivors, typically relatives or spouses, may be able to initiate a lawsuit to recover damages. A wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for the survivor’s loss resulting from the death of the loved one, i.e., lost wages, loss of companionship, or medical or funeral expenses. A wrongful death claim can involve almost any type of accident resulting in death, including product liability, medical malpractice, auto accidents, or on-the-job injuries. California allows a time limit of two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a wrongful death claim.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The California Wrongful Death Statute specifies those who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Specifically, the following parties may bring a wrongful death lawsuit – the surviving spouse or domestic partner, any surviving children, or if there is no surviving descendant or partner, then a wrongful death suit may be initiated by anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession” (i.e., parents, or siblings of the deceased). Also, if the following parties can demonstrate financial dependence on the deceased, they are also entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California:

  • The deceased person’s common law spouse and their children
  • Any stepchildren of the deceased
  • The parents of the deceased

Damages Available for Recovery

In a wrongful death lawsuit, damages are typically apportioned between compensating the estate for losses associated with the death of the deceased and the surviving family members for their losses suffered. Damages that are typically allocated to the estate include funeral/burial costs, medical expenses for the deceased’s final injury, and any lost income (including any income the deceased person would have been reasonably expected to earn in their future). Damages typically allocated to the surviving family include the loss of financial support, value of household services, loss of love, community, guidance, and affection.

Contact Leslie Legal Group

It is the legal responsibility of every single company and individual to ensure the safety of their employees or clients. A breach of this responsibility can occur when the same companies or individuals act in a negligent or reckless manner. If your loved one suffered a severe injury or illness resulting in their untimely death, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. The Leslie Legal Group is committed to excellence in the representation of every single client. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.