In April, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver who is believed to have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. 21-year-old David Dominguez was charged with a slew of crimes after he reportedly sped through a stop sign and hit the 50-year-old Garold Allen Crosbie as he properly crossed with the light in the crosswalk. Dominguez inserted a plea of not guilty to charges of felony gross vehicular manslaughter, felony hit-and-run with injury, felony driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol content of .08 of higher, and misdemeanor driving without a license. Regardless of the outcome of the criminal charges pending against Dominguez the victim’s family may be able to recover damages stemming from the loss of their loved one. An experienced southern California personal injury attorney will be able to explain their legal rights and options.
In California, a wrongful death occurs when a person dies because of another person’s actions (or lack thereof). When a wrongful death occurs, families of fatally-wounded accident victims are permitted to file a claim for damages against the at-fault party. A family seeking monetary compensation from an at-fault party will be required to prove:
Generally, any family members related by blood or marriage are permitted to bring wrongful death claims for damages. In California, the following parties are specifically permitted to file claims:
Crosbie’s family – should they decide to file a wrongful death claim for damages against Dominguez – may have a fairly easy time proving their case. This is especially true if Dominguez is convicted of the DUI charges. The theory of negligence per se holds that an act is considered negligent if it violates a statute or regulation. Driving under the influence, for example, is against the law. Charges of a DUI offer grounds for negligence per se. In arguing their case, Crosbie’s family would not need to prove that Dominguez was negligent. Instead, they would merely need to point to the fact that Dominguez broke the law and that the breach of the law caused the accident and subsequent death.
California follows the rules of pure comparative negligence. Basically, if you are involved in an accident you may be liable for damages up to the percentage of fault to which you are attributed. The details provided by the police seem to indicate that Crosbie was properly crossing the San Diego intersection with the light. If, however, he was jaywalking or crossing against the light, his family’s ability to recover damages may be reduced by the percentage of fault for the accident attributed to Crosbie. Even if that percentage was 5%, their recoverable damages would be capped at 95%.
What kind of damages can a family recover in a wrongful death lawsuit? Generally, damages sustained by the victim and/or the family are fair game. Damages sustained by the victim are generally medical expenses paid prior to his or her death and are usually sought by the administrator of the victim’s estate.
The family may seek damages for injuries they suffer as a result of the wrongful death. These damages are broken into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are awarded to help families get back in a financial position they would have been in had the accident and death not occurred. Common economic damages in wrongful death lawsuits include medical expenses, hospital fees, surgical procedures, lab tests, and costs related to the funeral and burial (including travel).
Non-economic damages are awarded to compensate for more subjective injuries. Non-economic damages commonly awarded in wrongful death cases include those for loss of future wages, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
Punitive damages are not typically available in California wrongful death claims. There is, however, and exception to this rule. If an at-fault party is convicted of a felony murder – meaning that the death was committed while the party was committing a felony – punitive damages may be awarded.
At Joshua W. Glotzer, APC, we understand the incredibly difficult time a family faces after the unexpected death of a loved one. In order to help families through this tough time, and to allow them to focus on grieving the loss of their family member, we off our services on a contingency fee basis. We do not collect compensation unless we recover damages for the loss of your loved one. This removes additional financial stresses typically associated with legal representation. If you have lost a loved one in a southern California accident, contact our office today for a free consultation.
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