201712.05
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Drunk Driving Kills: Wrongful Death Lawsuits in California

Earlier this month a 23-year-old Californian woman was sentenced to eight years in prison for her role in a drink driving accident that claimed the life of a 26-year-old Los Osos resident, reports The Tribune. The accident occurred in the early hours of December 16, 2015 when the 23-year-old chose to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.15, entered Highway 101 going in the wrong direction, and crashed head-on into her victim’s car. The drunk driver pled no contest to the crime of gross vehicular manslaughter, but a personal injury lawsuit filed by an injured passenger is still ongoing.

When a drunk driver causes a fatal car accident, the government may choose to charge the driver with a crime (for example, gross vehicular manslaughter and/or driving under the influence). However, anyone who was injured in the crash can file a separate personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver in order to recover compensation for their losses in civil court. What about drunk driving accidents like the one described above in which a victim passes away? In these situations, family members of the deceased victim can file a special type of personal injury claim called a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in California

 In California, only certain family members are eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Surviving spouses and minor children are almost always eligible, however other family members (such as putative spouses, stepchildren, parents, and other family members) may also qualify if certain conditions are met. California’s wrongful death statute is bit complicated, but an experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to quickly assess your case and determine whether or not you are eligible to file a lawsuit under the statute.

A successful wrongful death lawsuit in California arising out of a drunk driving accident must prove the following four elements:

  • Negligence: You must show that the defendant was negligent by driving in a reckless or careless manner. Driving drunk generally satisfies this element.
  • Breach of Duty: Each driver on the road owes other drivers and pedestrians a certain duty of care. You must show that the defendant driver owed this duty to your deceased family member that the defendant breached his or her duty.
  • Causation: It must be shown that the defendant driver’s breach of duty caused the deceased party’s death.
  • Damages: Lastly, you must prove that quantifiable damages were suffered (for example, medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost income, etc.).

 Need Legal Advice?

 If you lost a loved one to a drunk driving accident, we are very sorry for your loss. Here at The Paris Firm, we understand that during this trying time you have many things to attend to in addition to pursuing the compensation to which you are legally entitled. Let us make this difficult time a bit easier by zealously pursuing your wrongful death claim and fighting for what you deserve. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney at The Paris Firm to help you with your case today.