In 2012, a car crash in Eagle Rock, California claimed the lives of four family members – a husband and wife, their child, and the husband’s father. In August of 2012, the the family was on its way home from Fresno when, at about about 6:50 p.m., the left tire of their 1999 Ford Expedition blew out. The blowout caused their vehicle to roll over the freeway’s center divider and fall 36 feet. Surviving family members brought a lawsuit against multiple defendants, including a tire resaler and the roadway designer.
The surviving members of the family alleged that the accident resulted from defective rear tires, causing the blowout that led to the crash. They also alleged that the defective roadway design caused the vehicle to roll up into an area without any safety precautions (i.e., guardrails, beams, etc.), making the wreck worse.
Only two defendants remained in the case by the time the jury was empaneled. Just as the trial was about to start, the parties notified the court that they had reached an agreement. The defendant companies paid the family $10 million to settle the wrongful death suit.
What Is a Wrongful Death Case in California?
A “wrongful death” lawsuit in California arises if a person dies because of another person’s or entity’s wrongful act or negligence. In California, a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim, meaning it is not a criminal case. As such, the case requires an appropriate plaintiff.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Generally, a wrongful death claim in California can be brought by the deceased’s survivors or a personal representative. Specifically, California law allows the following people to bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased:
- the surviving spouse of the deceased
- the domestic partner of the deceased
- the surviving children of the deceased
- Anyone else that may be able to inherit from the deceased, including the deceased’s parents, siblings, or other family members
What Kind of Damages can a Plaintiff Win in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?
Because wrongful death is a civil claim in California, the plaintiff may be entitled to monetary damages and losses. In California, these damages may include:
- Expenses for the funeral
- Reimbursement for medical and hospital bills resulting in the illness or injury that took the life of the deceased
- Lost of income, such as potential or expected income the deceased might have made if still alive
Losses may include:
- The cost of household services
- Reimbursement for unrealized financial support
- The loss of companionship
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