Category: Wrongful Death

Earlier this month 5 people were killed when a small plane crash-landed in a parking lot in Santa Ana. According to reports, the cause of the accident was not immediately known to investigators. The outcome of the investigation will help to determine (a) why the accident happened and (b) who is to blame. These answers will guide family members as they consider filing personal injury lawsuits in the wake of their devastating losses.

What Legal Options to Family Members Have After a Fatal Accident?

At least 5 people, including passengers on the plane and bystanders in the parking lot, were killed in the Santa Ana plane crash. Their families were likely shocked and devastated when they received the news. While money will not bring their loved ones back, it can help to ease the financial stress of their unexpected loss.

There are two legal options available following a fatal accident in California.

The first involves filing what is known as a survival action. This is a claim that is filed by a victim’s personal estate. It seeks to recover damages that the victim would have been able to recover had they survived the accident. This could include things like lost wages and medical bills.

The second involves filing what is known as a wrongful death claim. This claim allows certain family members (e.g., spouse, child, partner) to recover compensation and damages for their own personal losses caused by the fatal accident. This could include things like funeral costs, the lost financial support of the victim, or loss of companionship.

Who is Liable For the Fatal Plane Crash?

If the family members decide to pursue compensation they will have to determine who is liable for the fatal crash. Liability tends to hinge on whose negligence caused or contributed to the accident. This can be a long and emotionally draining process. While federal and state investigators will look into the cause of the crash, it is important for the families to launch an investigation of their own.

Hiring an attorney who understands how to conduct a thorough personal injury investigation is crucial to the success of a lawsuit. Why? In California, anyone who contributes to an accident can be responsible for damages. Identifying each and every cause of an accident will help to determine liability. The more parties you can identify, the more likely you are to recover the money you deserve.

Parties who may be liable for the Santa Ana plane crash could include:

  • The pilot
  • Passengers (if they interfered with the pilot’s operation of the aircraft)
  • The plane manufacturer
  • Manufacturers of defective components of the plane (if those contributed to the crash)
  • John Wayne Airport and Air Traffic Control, or
  • Other aircraft in the sky.

Can The Pilot’s Family Recover Money If He Is To Blame?

Maybe. In California, anyone who contributes to an accident can be liable for damages. This includes anyone who was also injured or killed in that accident. The pilot’s family may still be able to recover compensation if someone else shared some of the blame for the accident.

Here’s how it could work. Let’s say an investigation finds that the pilot is 80 percent at fault for the crash. Another party is also 20 percent responsible. The pilot’s family can seek damages from that other party. However, the amount of money they can recover will be reduced by the pilot’s own degree of fault. As a result, they can only recover 20 percent of their damages. If they sustained $100,000 in damages, they will be entitled to a maximum of $20,000.

When Do the Families Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

California imposes a strict statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. In most cases, family members must file a claim for damages within two years of the accident or the victim’s death, whichever is later.

What happens if the investigation doesn’t wrap up within two years? What if the liable party can’t be located? California does provide some flexibility when extenuating circumstances exist. Families may be able to toll (or pause) the statute of limitations until the investigation is complete and defendants are identified. Tolling prevents the families from being punished for circumstances beyond their control.


Are you struggling with a personal injury matter? Do you need the help of an experienced attorney? Contact our Los Angeles personal injury team today to schedule a free consultation.