A Lancaster, California hit-and-run accident has claimed the life of an 11-year-old girl. Last month, two cars collided in Lancaster near the intersection of 20th Street East and Lancaster Boulevard. Witnesses saw the driver of one of the vehicles immediately leave the scene. The girl, who was a passenger in the other car, was airlifted to a local hospital but succumbed to her injuries two days later. The driver ultimately turned himself into police the day after the girl died at the hospital. He was charged with felony hit and run. The girl’s family may be considering a separate, civil legal action against the man.
A civil lawsuit for the wrongful death of their daughter can proceed as the man stands trial for the hit and run. The outcome of the criminal prosecution of the alleged hit-and-run driver should have no bearing on the parents’ ability to successfully pursue damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. This is especially true if he pleads guilty or is found guilty. However, the hit-and-run driver’s attorney may attempt to “stay” the civil case until the criminal charges have been resolved. This essentially asks the court to prohibit the civil case from moving forward until there is an outcome in the criminal case. Many times, defendants in a criminal case may fear that their Constitutional rights may be infringed if they are forced to endure civil litigation before they have had their day in court.
Their path to recover compensation will be easier, however, if the man is convicted of the felony hit-and-run charge. A wrongful death lawsuit is generally based on negligence. Proving negligence requires establishing that a person owed you a duty of care, they failed to live up to that duty, and that you suffered an injury as a result. In some cases, it can be difficult to establish that someone breached a duty of care. When the person you are seeking compensation from is also facing criminal charges for the same offense it can be much easier to establish both the duty of care and the breach.
A conviction for a hit-and-run offense could mean that the driver could be considered negligent per se. In California, a court will presume that a person failed to exercise due care if:
The girl’s family could argue that the fact that the man left the scene after the accident was sufficient to prove that he violated the law. Anyone who is involved in an accident that causes property damage or personal injury is required to provide certain information to the victim(s) before leaving the scene of an accident. Since the man reportedly left the scene without leaving his car, it may be fairly easy to establish that he should be considered negligent per se. However, a conviction or plea of guilty will make establishing this fact even easier.
As the girl’s family struggles with the unexpected and tragic loss of their daughter their attorney will likely try to make the process of recovering compensation as painless as possible. The more information the family’s wrongful death attorney has, the better he or she will be able to establish a persuasive case for damages.
How can an attorney calculate the damages for the wrongful death of a child? In many cases, the damages available for the wrongful death of a child may be less than those available for the wrongful death of an adult. This is, at least, true for economic damages. A child who loses a parent can seek to recover lost present and future earnings. These financial losses can be fairly easy to calculate. When a parent loses a child, however, they will not be seeking lost wages unless the child was, perhaps, a child actor. Parents can request damages to compensate for the future wages their child may have earned in her lifetime. This, however, can be difficult to value, especially when a child is as young as 11. Parents can also request economic damages to compensate for medical expenses for care prior to the child’s death, as well as funeral costs.
This is not to say that parents who suffer the loss of a child cannot receive a large settlement or award of damages. The ability to recover economic damages may be limited, but an award of non-economic damages can be significant. Non-economic damages may be awarded to compensate families for the intangible harms they suffer because of the loss of a loved one. A child is no exception. Parents may seek compensation for loss of companionship, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. These non-economic harms do not have a specific monetary value. Instead, a judge or jury will determine an appropriate value, based on the totality of the evidence and any relevant testimony.
If you have lost a loved one in a Lancaster hit-and-run accident you may be entitled to compensation from the negligent driver. Lancaster personal injury attorney Joshua W. Glotzer understands the hardships that can accompany the sudden and tragic loss of a loved one and may be able to help you recover compensation for your loss. Contact his Lancaster office today to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options.
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