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

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What Should I Do After a Car Wreck Death in California

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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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

Death From Car Wreck in California: What Should I Do - FAQs

  • Should I Settle With the Insurance Company?

    It is generally not advisable to settle with the insurance company before speaking with an attorney. The main goal of an insurance company is to collect premiums, not to pay out claims. When the insurance company approaches you with a settlement offer, they are likely offering a much lower amount than you would be able to recover with the help of an attorney. It is possible that an attorney can help you negotiate a better settlement with the insurance company. However, the insurance company may be willing to take their chances in court. You will need an experienced attorney on your side to help you get the best possible settlement.

  • When Should I Call an Attorney?

    In California, you have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, you do not want to wait that long to contact an attorney. Having a lawyer start on your case as soon as possible is important. Wrongful death cases can be difficult to prove, especially if it is not clear who was at fault for the car accident. An attorney will need time to gather evidence, file paperwork, and interview witnesses. Evidence can go missing and memories can fade, so you want an attorney on your side as soon as possible.

  • How Much Will an Attorney Cost?

    Most wrongful death attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing out of your own pocket. When you win your case, your attorney will take a predetermined percentage of the amount you are awarded. When you hire your lawyer, they will go over the expenses and fees that they expect to be reimbursed for. Some expenses may include court fees, document fees, and expert witness fees. Make sure to ask who is responsible for these costs if you lose your case. Some attorneys will charge you for these expenses after your case is over, but will not charge you the attorney fees because they lost your case.

  • How Do I Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney?

    There are several ways to find an attorney to handle your wrongful death case. The best way to find someone is to ask the people you know for referrals. If you know someone who has firsthand experience, they will be able to tell you honestly how well the attorney did, and what they liked and disliked about the way the lawyer handled their case. And this is not limited to your family and friends. Ask people you trust, like your physician or your mechanic. They may have experience with local law firms. Wrongful death attorneys often handle many types of personal injury cases. You never know who may have used a lawyer in the past.

    If you cannot find a personal reference, the next best place to search is the internet. Many independent websites have reviews of local attorneys and discuss how well they handle their cases. You can search Facebook or other social media for previous clients or local groups that are helpful in finding qualified attorneys. You can also contact the local Bar Association to get references and learn more about attorneys in your area.

    Once you have selected several lawyers, contact them to set up a consultation. Most wrongful death attorneys will offer free initial consultations. During these meetings, you will be able to get a feeling for their professionalism and how well you will be able to work with them. They will also be able to give you an idea of the expenses and fees they will collect, and what charges you are responsible for if they lose your case. 

  • How Much Compensation Can I Expect?

    The amount of compensation varies widely depending on the circumstances of the accident and death, as well as the amount the deceased would have reasonably contributed to the household if the accident had not happened. Your attorney may be able to give you a ballpark figure of how much they think your case may be worth. At the very least, they should be able to tell you the amounts they have won for other recent clients. It can range anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Consulting with an attorney will give you a better idea of what to expect in compensation for your specific situation.

  • What if Another Family Member Is Trying to File Wrongful Death?

    In California, there is a clear hierarchy when it comes to the individuals that can file for wrongful death. In general, if a family member has and will suffer losses because of the death, they may be able to file for compensation. It is possible that a spouse and a child can file for compensation. Or there may be a situation where a child and an adult parent that both received support from the deceased can file. 

    Generally, everyone who is entitled to compensation because of a wrongful death will be named in one lawsuit. In California, there are clear definitions for who is entitled to file. If you are worried about a long-lost cousin coming forward to claim a wrongful death suit, they will most likely have no case. The important thing is to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to ensure the rightful heirs are able to file a wrongful death case.

  • Morgan & Morgan Is Here for You

    We know this is a very tough time for loved ones. You are never prepared for a death in the family, especially one that happens suddenly due to a car accident. Morgan & Morgan has decades of experience helping families recover the losses and compensation they deserve. Wrongful death cases can be tricky. Our attorneys have won countless cases and know how to successfully pursue a wrongful death case due to a car accident. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you pay nothing if we do not win your case. Call us today for your free consultation so we can discuss the details of your case.

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