What Makes a Fatal Accident a Wrongful Death?

A person in black clothes and with a black umbrella walking in the distance away from a tombstone in the foreground.

A fatal accident is always tragic. Fatal accidents distress families and friends with the unprecedented loss of a loved one.

And even worse, when the said loved one is a provider for a family, it can also cause substantial impacts to their financial security.

But what if the accident was caused due to the negligence of another party? Also known as wrongful death, this situation opens responsible parties up to financial liability when there is a fatality due their negligence or wrongful actions.

Like a personal injury claim, a wrongful death claim aims to restore damages suffered as a result of the responsible party.

Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law, helped many in cases of wrongful death. Our California wrongful death lawyers have extensive years of combined experience assisting families in recovering compensation when they have suddenly lost a loved one due to negligence.

We will provide a confidential and no-obligation case review to discuss all options available. Call (559) 878-4958 or contact us online to schedule your appointment today.

Does Car Insurance Cover Wrongful Death?

The question most asked when in a wrongful death situation is whether car insurance covers wrongful death? The answer is, in most cases, it does, through third-party liability coverage.

California law requires all vehicle owners to have a third-party liability insurance policy. Liability coverage pays for damages inflicted upon another party when the policyholder is found at-fault for an accident that led to the death of another person.

An issue often found with liability insurance is that it is not enough to cover the damages. In these cases, the surviving claimants may need to identify another party who is responsible in order to cover the remaining costs of the damages.

Wrongful Deaths in Car Accidents

Car accident and wrongful death attorneys are familiar with common car accident scenarios that can lead to a fatality. The most common types of fatal car accidents include those that involve:

  • High speeds, especially when there are dangerous weather conditions.
  • Driver distractions, including cell phone use, daydreaming and “zoning out.”
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road; often seen in cases of driving under the influence.
  • Improper turn like making a U turn where it is not legally allowed
  • Violation of the right-of-way rules, including turning left in front of oncoming traffic
  • Violation of stop signals and signs, like yield signs and one-way streetways

Drivers are easily distracted by cellphones, passengers, eating and/or drinking, and daydreaming during long commutes. Statistically, in 2019, 3,142 deaths (8.70%) were related to distracted drivers alone in California. 

Distracted driver statistics are growing and causing concern as they continue to create more and more accidents. A distraction is defined as anything that causes a shift in a driver’s focus, and it ranges from talking on a cell phone or texting to zoning out when driving long commutes.

Distracted driving is a growing problem as distracted drivers ignore their surroundings — even if they did not mean to — and put others at risk of an accident because of their negligence.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death

Wrongful death is not caused by one kind of event; instead, it can involve any number of circumstances surrounding the event that leads to the victim’s death. 

While there are plenty of causes in wrongful death cases, the most common are:

  • Car, truck, and bicycle accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Falls and structural collapse
  • Dangerous and defective products
  • Occupational accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Intentional criminal acts

Proving Wrongful Death in a Case

In order to prove that wrongful death occurred, the claimant party has to not just indicate the liable party’s negligence but also accurately document harm that the loss has inflicted on the remaining dependents.

This can be emotionally distressing and negatively impact the financial stability and wellbeing of the victim’s family.

Determining Liability

There can be multiple liable parties involved in the events leading to a wrongful death. These parties are usually:

  • The driver of an at-fault car accident
  • The manufacturer of a product or machine that is dangerous or defective
  • Engineers and designers of compromised roadways
  • A healthcare professional who committed malpractice
  • A negligent property owner
  • Other parties that contributed to the fatal event

When filing a wrongful death claim, your attorney will investigate the circumstances of the accident and the events leading up to it.

Based on their independent investigation, they will ascertain parties that hold liability and assign an appropriate amount of damages based on their contributions to the fatal circumstances of the decedent.

Employers and Workers Comp

Fatal injuries and occupational illnesses related to the scope of employment may be claimed under a workers compensation policy, when appropriate. Some cases may involve a joint third-party wrongful death claim and a claim on the employer’s workers compensation policy.

In most cases, employers cannot be held directly liable for the death of an employee, with a few notable exceptions, including deaths in connection to specific safety violations or following a pattern of intentional or criminal behavior.

Refer to California’s Department of Industrial Relations and your attorney for more information on when workers compensation might apply to your specific situation.

What Damages Can Be Sought in a Wrongful Death Claim?

The California legal system allows for relatives of the victim to file a claim of damages, including the following:

  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • Loss of financial support from the victim that would have been received otherwise.
  • Pain and suffering of the remaining family from the loss of their loved one
  • Loss of companionship for those in marriage or domestic partnerships

In addition, representatives of the decedent’s estate can file what’s known as a “survival action,” seeking the damages experienced directly by the accident victim immediately prior to their death, such as the costs of medical care made necessary by the negligent party’s action.

This type of claim can be filed jointly with a family’s wrongful death claim, in many instances.

How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help

It is strongly recommended that the injured party speak to a qualified attorney as soon as possible to analyze their case and determine what kind of compensation they are potentially eligible for. Your lawyer will:

  • Provide legal representation and resources, including legal guidance and strategy for case management
  • Calculate medical costs suffered by the victim prior to their death, as well as other damages suffered by the decedent’s estate or by the surviving family members
  • Perform legal research in order to identify relevant laws as well as outcomes for similar past cases
  • Negotiate tirelessly with insurance representatives and defending parties
  • File a lawsuit, if necessary, and represent your case in court

California’s Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death

In California, wrongful death cases fall under the category of personal Injury with a statute of limitations of two years after the incident occurred. Two years may seem like a long time, but when one is grieving and managing financial changes, that time can pass quickly.

When the two years are gone, filing a wrongful death claim can be difficult, if not impossible. Any attempts to acquire compensation after this period may not result in any payment for damages.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The victim of a wrongful death has since departed from this earth, but their families and loved ones remain to bear the cost and emotional pain in the aftermath. 

While many friends and families suffer from the loss of the victim, not everyone can file a claim. Claims or lawsuits related to a wrongful death may be filed by:

  • The surviving spouse or domestic partner
  • The surviving children
  • Parents or siblings of the victim if the victim was unmarried or with no children
  • Anyone else who can prove financial dependence on the victim

A Wrongful Death Case: Step-By-Step to File a Claim

Each case will be evaluated and analyzed to determine the best strategy for filing a claim with possibly some unique steps. But, generally, the process from beginning to end for a wrongful death case is as follows:

  1. Relatives of the victim reach out to a legal team to file a claim after an event leading to the wrongful death of their loved one
  2. The legal team reviews the case and determines what damages can be claimed
  3. A Notice of a Claim is filed with the appropriate insurers, and the claim is investigated by at-fault insurers
  4. Demand Letters are created and sent to the negligent party’s insurer requesting compensation to cover damages
  5. The insurance company responds, honoring the claim in full or opening up the possibility of escalation to a lawsuit

Reach out to Compassionate and Motivated California Wrongful Death Attorneys for Assistance

Wrongful death cases are stressful, painful, and financially straining. Even worse, families find that the death of their loved ones can lead to suffering and financial devastation.

Accidents can happen, but they should not happen because of someone else’s negligence. When they do, the negligent party should be held accountable.

Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law are here to help retrieve compensation for the drastic changes loved ones will now have to endure because of wrongful death. Call us at (559) 878-4958 or contact us online for a no-obligation consultation.

Our wrongful death lawyers have years of combined experience in answering questions and creating a strategy to maximize the chances that you can receive the compensation you and your grieving family deserves.