The holidays are supposed to be a happy time. Unfortunately, one California family is spending this time grieving the unexpected loss of their loved one following a fatal Los Angeles hit-and-run accident. The crash, which took place in around 9 o’clock in the evening on Christmas in South L.A., involved one vehicle and a 50-year-old woman. The driver of the car, after striking the woman, sped away from the scene. The woman was rushed to the hospital but later died from her injuries. As the family mourns the loss of their loved one may be considering legal action against the hit-and-run driver.
Statute of Limitations
If the family wants to file a wrongful death claim they must act quickly. In California, there is a specific period of time in which a legal claim can be filed after an accident. This time, known as the statute of limitations, generally runs for two consecutive years following the date of the accident. This means that the victim’s family will have until Christmas of 2019 to file a wrongful death claim against the hit-and-run driver.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations
Police have not yet identified the driver who is responsible for the fatal hit-and-run accident. While they do have a preliminary description of the car and a partial license plate, there is always the possibility that they will not be able to identify the driver. What happens if police cannot find the hit-and-run driver within the next two years? The statute of limitations is only for two years. Does this mean that evading capture can also allow the at-fault driver to escape responsibility for his actions?
Not necessarily. The statute of limitations generally runs for a period of two years following an accident. However, there are certain times when the statute of limitations can be paused. This pause, which is also known as tolling, will keep the statute of limitations from expiring when extenuating circumstances exist. The statute of limitations will remain paused until the tolling factor (the extenuating circumstance) has been resolved. Reasons that the statute of limitations may be tolled include a reasonable delay in the discovery of an injury or suffering an injury as a minor. The statute of limitations will be suspended until the “tolling factor” is no longer an issue. This would be when the injury is discovered or a victim turns 18.
The statute of limitations can also be tolled when the at-fault party (“defendant”) cannot be found or is unavailable. In the present case, the statute of limitations could be suspended until the hit-and-run driver is found. When the driver is found, the victim’s family would then have the ability to pursue a claim. This is true even if the driver is found after Christmas in 2019.
A hit-and-run, especially one causing the death of another person, is a serious crime in Los Angeles. If the driver is arrested, charged, and convicted of the crime he may be sentenced to a long time behind bars. The statute of limitations can also be tolled if the driver is incarcerated. The family will have an appropriate amount of time to pursue compensation, regardless of the criminal charges that the hit-and-run driver faces.
Compensation for the Wrongful Death of a Family Member
Christmas may never be the same for the victim’s family. Every year, they will likely relive the pain and suffering that they feel today. They can be awarded monetary compensation to help them cope with this loss. A wrongful death claim can be a powerful tool to help families recover financially and emotionally after the unexpected loss of a loved one. The family may be able to recover money to help compensate for:
- Medical expenses incurred at the hospital prior to the victim’s death;
- Funeral costs and expenses, including travel and lodging;
- Lost financial support;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of consortium; and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Los Angeles
It is important to act quickly after a Los Angeles personal injury-causing accident. While there are certain extenuating circumstances that extend the statute of limitations, these extensions are not automatic. You can help to ensure that you will get the money you deserve by enlisting the help of a personal injury attorney. Call Glotzer & Leib, LLP to schedule a free consultation and learn more. We will review your case, explain the process of filing a claim, and answer any questions you have.