It is not uncommon for a traffic accident to lead to a second accident. Other drivers are often trying to see the wreck instead of paying attention to the road. Disabled vehicles can also lead to accidents if other drivers are not paying attention. Tragically, these accidents are fatal for far too many pedestrians.
Surviving family members have the legal right to file a wrongful death claim against a driver whose negligence causes a pedestrian fatality. At Arash Law, our experienced car accident lawyers know how to handle the difficult emotions surrounding wrongful death cases. Learn more about the frequency and cost of reported pedestrian fatalities involving disabled vehicles on California highways.
Hundreds of Victims Are Killed Every Year While Waiting With a Disabled Vehicle
The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety reports that an estimated 566 people were killed across the U.S. each year between 2016 and 2018 in crashes involving a disabled vehicle. On average, more than fourteen thousand people were injured in these accidents each year as well. These thousands of deaths and injuries could be avoided if drivers were paying attention as they should be.
Drivers have a legal obligation to operate their vehicles with due care. “Due care” means that drivers must slow down and exercise more caution when near a disabled vehicle. If not, they can be found negligent and have a legal obligation to pay for all the losses caused by their negligence.
Your Legal Rights After a Family Member’s Wrongful Death
Surviving family members (or legal heirs, if there are no surviving family members) have legal rights after a loved one loses their life in a pedestrian traffic accident. Filing a wrongful death claim can be a difficult and emotional process. It is also an important method of accountability. Negligent drivers must be held responsible for the damages they cause. Here are some of the legal rights that survivors have as a result of their wrongful death claim:
1.) Survivors have the right to be compensated for both their financial and emotional losses.
There are many losses that survivors endure as a result of losing a loved one. They are entitled to fair compensation for all of these losses – both financial and emotional. Learn more about all the types of compensation that are available in a wrongful death claim:
The Financial Costs of a Wrongful Death
The financial costs of losing a loved one can quickly become staggering. The costs of a funeral and burial (or cremation) are just the beginning. Family members (or legal heirs) are also entitled to other financial losses, such as the value of the wages the victim could have earned over the rest of their expected lifetime. Accident lawyers support this claim by hiring economic experts.
An economist can testify about the wages and benefits the victim was earning, how wages and benefits could change in light of promotions and inflation, and the total value of these lost wages from the date of the accident through the decedent’s expected retirement date. For many wage earners, years of lost wages can quickly cross the million-dollar mark.
The Emotional Costs of a Wrongful Death
For most survivors, the emotional costs of losing a loved one are far worse than the financial costs. Who can put a price on the value of a lost spouse? What about a child whose parent will not be there to dance at their wedding or cheer at their graduation? These are very real, personal losses. Insurance companies try to deflate this value with simple mathematical formulas that allow their computers to develop low settlement figures. But this is not what is fair.
Survivors have the legal right to fair compensation for all their emotional losses, as well as their financial losses. In some rare cases, the emotional costs of losing a family member include punitive damages. Punitive damages are a special type of damages. Instead of being compensated for a specific loss, victims are awarded these damages as a punishment against the defendant for egregious behavior.
It is rare for courts to impose punitive damages against an individual. On the other hand, large companies are more likely to be punished for especially bad actions. Imagine that a car company works hard to cover up that its new truck model has a serious defect in the braking system. If this leads to a fatal traffic accident, the survivors could seek punitive damages to punish the company for its dangerous conduct.
2.) Survivors have the right to let their own attorney determine the value of their case.
So what is the fair value of a wrongful death claim? An insurance company is not likely to give you the real answer to this question. A fair settlement offer must account for what a jury would likely award you at trial. Experienced accident lawyers know what a case is likely worth at trial – and whether it is worth it to take the risk of letting a jury decide your case. The insurance company cannot give you impartial advice on this issue.
Remember, their job is to pay you as little as possible. You have the right to get an independent opinion from your own attorney about the fair value of your case. Experienced wrongful death attorneys know what similar cases have settled for in your area. They know what juries award in similar cases, which allows them to accurately advise you on the fair value of your case.
3.) Survivors have the right to demand a jury trial if an insurance company will not make a fair settlement offer.
If the insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement offer for pain and suffering, you have the right to take your case to a jury and let your peers decide what compensation is fair. Jurors are human. They understand the emotional connection between spouses, parents, and children, or other close family members. They do not rely on cold math to determine what compensation is fair in a wrongful death case.
But taking a case to trial is always a risk. Because jurors are human, they can also be unpredictable, which means that there is always a risk. Your attorney can help you weigh the risks and benefits of going to trial. An experienced accident lawyer can advise you about whether you should go to trial or not, but ultimately, the decision is yours to make.
4.) Survivors may also have rights in the criminal justice system.
A wrongful death case is a civil claim. This fact means that a plaintiff files a lawsuit in the civil court to ask for a financial award. But in the case of traffic fatalities, survivors may also have legal rights in the criminal court if the state pursues criminal charges against the driver who caused the accident. (Common charges include vehicular homicide, reckless driving, DUI, or fleeing the scene of an accident.)
The prosecutor may consult with you before making a bail recommendation or offering a plea agreement. You might be assigned a victim advocate to help you navigate the court hearings that have been scheduled. You also have the right to hire your own victims’ rights attorney to officially represent you in the case.
These are important rights that help victims see the criminal justice system impose consequences on negligent drivers who cause fatal accidents. If you have questions about a criminal case, our accident lawyers can help you find a victims’ rights attorney to protect your rights in the criminal justice system.
Why Wrongful Death Claims Are More Complicated Than Personal Injury Claims
After minor accidents, some injury victims choose to settle their claims without the help of an attorney. They have the right to do this, though it is not usually advisable. Wrongful death claims are far more complicated than personal injury claims involving less serious injuries. Here are a few of the many reasons why it is important to hire an experienced wrongful death lawyer:
1.) Wrongful death claims involve larger sums of money.
A personal injury claim often involves a specific amount of lost wages and medical bills over a limited period of recovery. Wrongful death claims must account for years’ worth of lost wages. They also involve hypothetical questions, like how long the victim could have been expected to live but for the accident and what wages he or she could have earned over that hypothetical lifetime.
These are complicated calculations. Wrongful death lawyers must usually hire economic experts to make projections and give estimates. Without the help of an experienced accident lawyer, it will be difficult – if not impossible – to establish the fair value of these losses.
2.) Only certain claimants may file a wrongful death case.
The law only allows certain close relatives to file a wrongful death claim. The person filing the claim is generally a decedent’s parent, child, or spouse, though there are a few exceptions. If there are none of these close relatives, then more distant relatives may sue as legal heirs unless there are other legal heirs named in the victim’s will.
You can see where the situation can easily become complicated. Survivors might need a wrongful death attorney to prove that they have the right to file a legal claim at all. A lawyer can also help you address other procedural requirements, such as the statute of limitations or any required notices of claim.
The cause of death is not always clear.
In a personal injury case, it is usually clear that an accident caused the victim’s injuries. There may be underlying medical conditions or other factors that complicate the matter, but the plaintiff can usually connect the cause of the injuries to the accident. This process can be more difficult in wrongful death cases.
There could be multiple factors that result in death. What if an injury was made worse by an underlying medical condition? Or a doctor misdiagnosed the patient? All of these factors would play a role in the victim’s death. Due to the large sums involved in a personal injury claim, each defendant’s lawyers would try to blame the other defendants.
Your wrongful death lawyer will know how to prove what caused the victim’s death and who is legally responsible. This fact ensures that survivors have access to the compensation they are legally entitled to.
How to Prevent Secondary Accidents Involving a Disabled Vehicle
While drivers have a clear legal duty to watch out for pedestrians, there are still some things that pedestrians can do to protect themselves. Here are some tips for how to prevent a secondary accident involving a disabled vehicle:
- Always use your hazard lights to help other drivers see your vehicle.
- If you have road flares or a flashlight, these can also help other drivers see your vehicle and avoid a collision.
- Get your vehicle as far out of the path of traffic as possible.
- If you cannot move your vehicle from the path of oncoming traffic, you should get out and find a safe place to wait for help. Find a spot that is far from the path of traffic.
Experienced, Aggressive Wrongful Death Lawyers for All California Pedestrian Fatalities
The best personal injury law firm in California is Arash Law. Our California accident lawyers have experience with painful cases involving wrongful death, and they know how to handle pedestrian fatality cases. Our California injury attorneys have decades of experience, and our team has collected over 200 million dollars for clients across the Golden State.
Our skilled legal team serves clients in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Riverside, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, San Jose, San Diego, Fresno, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California. Call (888) 488-1391 today to schedule your free consultation. Clients all across the Golden State trust our team to protect their legal rights, and we will fight hard for you, too.