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Know Your Legal Rights: Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a DUI Accident

Losing a loved one can be devastating and painful for everyone involved. While many deaths are the result of a medical issue or natural causes, there are some circumstances where you lose a loved one because of another person’s negligence. What happens in those situations? Through your grief, you still need to take care of yourself and your family’s financial security. If you lost a loved one in an auto accident, and the other driver was under the influence, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim.

Fatal DUI Crashes in California

Alcohol-impaired driving comprises a large percentage of traffic injuries and deaths. According to theNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 51,000 drivers involved in fatal crashes in the US in 2019, about 20% of those drivers were drunk. Alcohol contributed to more than 10,100 fatal car accidents that year.

In California, of the 5,000 drivers involved in fatal car accidents in 2019, theCalifornia Office of Traffic Safety reports that about 18% of those drivers were drunk. Counties including Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Orange have the highest number of alcohol-involved fatal and serious injuries.

Most Common Accidents in Alcohol-Impaired Driving

When a driver consumes alcohol before getting behind the wheel, they become mentally and physically impaired. They are slower to react and they have less control over themselves and the vehicle. This can lead to serious, and even fatal, accidents. Here are some of the most common types of auto accidents that happen when the driver has been drinking.

  • Broadside: also known as a t-bone accident, this happens when the front of one vehicle hits the side of another vehicle.
  • Head-On: one of the most dangerous accidents, this is when two vehicles that are driving towards each other hit face-to-face; the front of one vehicle hits the front of another vehicle.
  • Hit Object: this occurs when the vehicle leaves the roadway and hits a nearby object such as a tree, utility pole, or traffic barrier.
  • Overturned: also called a rollover accident, this happens when the vehicle tips onto its side or roof.
  • Rear End: in these types of accidents, a vehicle crashes into the one ahead of it.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in California

When a drunk driver causes a fatal accident, the local district attorney may charge that driver with a crime such as DUI or vehicular manslaughter. The victim’s family can also file a separate personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver. Under California law, a “wrongful death” is one caused by the negligence of a person, business, or other entity. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim designed the recover compensation for the loss of a loved one.

In California, only certain family members can bring a wrongful death claim. That includes the victim’s spouse, children, parents, or legal guardian (if the victim’s parents are deceased). These surviving loved ones and family members can seek compensation for medical expenses related to the accident, lost income and household services, funeral costs, and personal grief. The spouse may also have a claim for loss of companionship, affection, and emotional support.

To build a strong wrongful death case, a personal injury attorney must show that the at-fault driver had a legal obligation to operate their vehicle safely – and that they violated that duty. The attorney must prove that the at-fault driver’s actions led to the fatal crash and that the victim and their family suffered quantifiable damages.

When to Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney

If your loved one or family member was killed in an automobile accident, there’s nothing that can take away the heartbreak and grief you’re feeling. While you can’t bring that person back, you can seek justice and receive compensation for your loss. At Bostwick & Peterson, our attorneys can help you file a wrongful death claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Let us make this difficult time a little easier by holding the DUI driver responsible and advocating for what you deserve. Contact an experienced personal injury today by filling out this online form or calling 888-831-8448. We offer free initial consultations at our San Francisco-based offices.