What Should I Do After a Car Wreck Death in California?

Having a family member or loved one involved in a fatal car accident is absolutely devastating. You may not know what to do or who to call for help. Fatal car crashes make up a large portion of wrongful death suits filed in California. 

Morgan & Morgan is here to make sure you don’t have to go through this terrible situation alone. We have decades of experience representing loved ones in fatal auto accidents in California. We will do everything in our power to ensure you get the justice and compensation that you are entitled to. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

Death From Car Wreck in California: What Should I Do?

If you lost a loved one as a result of a car wreck in California, you may have a wrongful death claim. According to California law, a wrongful death occurs when someone else is at fault for your loved one’s death. There are several scenarios that are possible when finding fault in an auto accident:

  • The other driver was negligent and caused the accident
  • When the driver is driving while on the job, the driver’s company may be responsible
  • If the driver is intoxicated and underage, the person who provided the alcohol may be responsible
  • The car manufacturer could be held liable if the vehicle was not safe to drive
  • A mechanic might be responsible if the vehicle was recently serviced improperly or repaired with faulty parts or workmanship
  • The city or county could even be to blame if there was a dangerous defect in the road that caused the accident

If you are unsure whether you have a valid case, it is best to contact a lawyer with experience in wrongful death suits due to auto accidents. They have special knowledge in handling many types of wrongful death cases and can advise you on the best course of action.

It’s important to note that a wrongful death claim is a civil matter. It is completely separate from any criminal matter that the party at fault may be charged with. Often, there are no criminal charges that are filed. 

Family Members Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case

In California, the surviving spouse or domestic partner is the most likely person to file for compensation. In the event there is no surviving spouse or domestic partner, children are the next in line that can file a claim. If there are no children, a former spouse, stepchildren, or adult parents can file a claim. Generally, these are the only family members that will have any claim to compensation in a wrongful death suit. 

If the surviving spouse or domestic partner does not want to file a claim, there is little chance of anyone else receiving compensation. In rare cases, children can file a claim when the spouse has refused. Check with an experienced wrongful death attorney to see if you are eligible to file a claim in the event your loved one is in a fatal car accident.

Recoverable Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

There are certain types of damages you can seek as part of a wrongful death case. These include:

  • Loss of support
  • Loss of services
  • Loss of companionship and cohabitation
  • Burial and funeral expenses

California also allows for a survival action case to be filed. This can happen separately from the wrongful death case or combined with the case as well. The survival action case is designed for the decedent’s estate to receive damages accrued after the accident, but before the death of the decedent. This includes:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Punitive damages, if applicable

For example, if the surviving spouse is also the administrator of the estate, they may be able to file a wrongful death suit to recover losses and funeral expenses, and also file a survival action to recover medical expenses that accrued immediately after the accident until the date of death. An experienced wrongful death attorney will be able to clearly explain the differences to you and discuss your options for filing.

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John Morgan