Earlier this week, an accident at a Rancho Bernardo intersection claimed the life of a 71-year-old woman. According to reports, an elderly man driving a sedan attempted to make a lefthand turn onto Acena Drive from Rancho Bernardo Road, despite having a red arrow. He ran through the light and crashed into a Jeep that had the right of way. The Jeep’s female passenger sustained severe injuries in the accident. She was transported to a local area hospital but later died from her injuries.
No one is ever prepared to lose someone they love. The victim’s family is likely struggling with many things in the wake of the fatal accident. In addition to emotional trauma, they’re probably also dealing with unexpected financial stress. They may consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the man who caused the fatal San Diego crash.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits are reserved for family members and individuals who are dependent on an accident victim. Preference is given to a victim’s spouse, domestic partner, and children. If the victim had no spouse or children, the following people may have the right to bring a wrongful death claim:
- A former spouse, or
Individuals who are not a spouse, domestic partner or child has to prove that they are financially dependent on the victim.
Can the Victim’s Estate File a Survival Action?
Survival actions are similar to, but distinct from, wrongful death claims. Wrongful death claims are filed by family members to recover compensation for their own personal losses. Survival actions, on the other hand, are filed by a victim’s estate to recover compensation that the victim would have been entitled to receive, had she survived.
In other words, a survival action seeks compensation for damages the victim sustained between the time of the accident and the time of death. As a result, there are only certain instances in which a survival claim can be asserted. The victim must have survived his or her injuries for at least a short period of time. Since the 71-year-old woman did not die instantly, her estate could bring a survival action to recover compensation.
When Does a Wrongful Death Case Have to Be Filed?
Families only have a short window of time in which they can file a wrongful death lawsuit after a fatal accident. In most cases, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the:
- Date of the accident, or
- Date of the victim’s death, whichever is later.
A court will refuse to accept a wrongful death claim if it is not filed before the applicable statute of limitations expires. As a result, a family can be denied the compensation they need and deserve.
There are certain times, however, when the statute of limitations can be extended. For example, a family may have additional time to file a claim if the defendant named in their case is incarcerated or cannot be located.
Will Criminal Charges Affect the Family’s Wrongful Death Claim?
The 71-year-old man who caused the fatal accident could face serious criminal charges for his role in the crash. He’ll likely have to contact a criminal defense lawyer to prepare for that very real possibility. What happens if he is charged with a crime? Will that have any impact on the family’s wrongful death claim?
Criminal and civil proceedings are separate and distinct. As a result, there’s no reason that the family can’t file a civil wrongful death claim against the man if he is charged with a crime. However, criminal and civil proceedings don’t always unfold at the same time. If the man is charged with a crime, he can file a motion to stay the civil action until his criminal case is resolved. This essentially means that the family’s wrongful death lawsuit is put on hold. It can’t resume until the criminal case comes to an end.
Are you struggling with the unexpected loss of a loved one after a San Diego accident? You might be entitled to compensation if someone else caused the fatal crash. Contact Injury Trial Lawyers, APC to schedule a time to speak with our compassionate legal team. Our personal injury lawyers will carefully review your case and help you understand your legal rights and options. Call today to learn more.