A recent early-morning Bakersfield car accident has claimed the life of a 22-year-old man and injured at least two others. According to reports, the car crashed into a utility pole near East Coma Loma Drive and Cottonwood Road. Police believe that alcohol may have contributed to the accident, which occurred shortly before 4 AM. The driver, who was injured in the fatal accident, was arrested on suspicion of DUI.
The driver’s choice to drink and drive may not only have criminal consequences. The family of the 22-year-old victim may decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent driver.
How Will a DUI Conviction Impact the Family’s Wrongful Death Case?
Criminal and civil proceedings are separate and distinct. The results of one case will not automatically have an impact on another. However, a family can benefit from the fact that the defendant in their wrongful death case has been convicted of a crime.
Wrongful death lawsuits generally require families to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their loved one’s death. Negligence occurs when:
- Defendant owes Plaintiff a duty of care
- Defendant breaches that duty of care, and
- The breach of duty causes Defendant to suffer an injury.
A wrongful death case can change when the defendant is convicted of a crime. In these situations, the families may be able to rely on the legal theory of “negligence per se.”
Negligence per se creates a rebuttable presumption that a defendant was negligent because they broke the law. However, the law that was broken must have been one that was designed to prevent the kind of harm that’s occurred.
Here, the driver in the fatal accident was arrested for driving under the influence. California’s DUI laws are intended to prevent car accidents and avoidable deaths. If the driver is convicted, the family can use this to their advantage in the wrongful death suit.
The Victim May Not Have Been Wearing His Seatbelt
Early reports indicate that the victim may not have been wearing his seatbelt at the time of the fatal crash. What could this mean for his family’s wrongful death case?
In California, contributing to an accident or injury does not automatically bar a victim or their family from recovering compensation. A lawsuit can be successful as long as someone else also shares fault. Here, it appears that the driver and the victim may both be responsible. The driver’s negligence caused the accident, while the victim’s negligence likely aggravated the extent of his injuries.
If the victim is comparatively negligent, his family will only be able to recover a portion of their damages. Their award will be reduced by the degree to which their loved one was responsible for his own fatal injuries. If the victim is attributed 25 percent of the blame, his family’s damages will be reduced by 25 percent.
What Types of Damages Can Be Awarded in a Wrongful Death Case?
There are differences between a personal injury lawsuit and a wrongful death case. One of the biggest differences involves the types of damages that can be awarded.
Damages in wrongful death cases can include money for:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost gifts or benefits from the victim
- Financial support the victim would have provided
- The value of household services the victim would have provided, and
- The loss of love, comfort, care, affection, moral support, and companionship.
Families may also be able to recover additional compensation by filing a survival action through the victim’s estate. A survival action can be successful if the victim lived for any period of time after the fatal accident.
Wrongful death cases can be complicated. Families are more likely to get the money they deserve when they hire an attorney. Contact Citywide Law Group to for help today.