A San Diego high school football standout was killed earlier this month in a two-vehicle crash in Alpine. The student, 17-year-old William Burton, was reportedly in the back of a Jeep without a seat or seat-belt. The vehicle began to drift on the road and the driver jerked the wheel to keep the Jeep on the road. However, the Jeep veered into the lane of an oncoming SUV. Burton was thrown from the Jeep when the SUV broadsided his vehicle. All of the other passengers in the car, including the driver, sustained minor injuries. They were all reportedly wearing their seatbelts.
Burton’s family is reeling from the unexpected loss of their football-star son. They may consider taking legal action against the Jeep’s teenage driver. However, since Burton was not sitting in a seat or wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, his own actions may prohibit his family from recovering compensation for his death.
San Diego Wrongful Death Lawsuits
When a family suffers the unexpected loss of a loved one because of another person’s negligent behavior they may be able to recover monetary compensation for their loss. Wrongful death lawsuits allow families to recover damages and hold negligent parties accountable for their actions. In order to successfully recover compensation, Burton’s family would have to prove:
- The driver of the Jeep acted negligently; and
- His negligence caused the death of their son.
A person is considered to have acted negligently when they breach a duty of care. As the driver of the Jeep, the teen had a responsibility to follow traffic laws, obey signs, and drive in a manner that minimized the potential for injury or harm. Preliminary reports about the crash indicate that the reason the Jeep began to drift is unknown. Generally speaking, the drift could have been caused by poor road conditions, inebriation, or speeding. If the teen driver was drunk or speeding, and this behavior caused the crash, then he may be financially liable for the death of his passenger.
Burton was the only passenger in the Jeep to suffer fatal injuries. This is likely because he was the only passenger to be riding without the security of a seat and seatbelt. The decision to ride in the cargo space of the jeep without protection could prevent his family from recovering compensation for his death. California law states that the comparative fault of a victim can limit or bar damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Whether Burton’s family can recover compensation at all will depend on the degree of fault attributed to their son. If Burton is determined to be entirely at fault for his death because he made the decision to ride in the Jeep without a seat or seat belt, his family will be barred from recovering damages for his death. However, if it is determined that the Jeep’s driver is partly at fault for operating a vehicle with a passenger in the cargo space, his family will be able to recover a portion of their damages.
The amount of compensation Burton’s family can recover will be limited to the degree of fault attributed to the Jeep’s driver. If, for example, Burton and the Jeep’s driver are both determined to be 50% at fault for his death, the family will be able to recover 50% of their damages.So, if they suffered $100,000 in damages they would only be entitled to recover $50,000 from the Jeep’s driver.
Wrongful Death Damages
If Burton’s family is entitled to compensation for the death of their son, what kind of damages can they recover? The answer will depend on the specific injuries and harms they have suffered.
Economic damages can be awarded to compensate them for verifiable financial costs related to the accident and their son’s death. These can include medical bills paid before his death, funeral expenses (including travel), burial or cremation costs, and loss of expected future income.
Non-economic damages can be awarded to compensate the family for the intangible losses they have suffered in the wake of the death of their son. These can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and embarrassment.
San Diego Wrongful Death Attorneys
Burton’s family will likely consult with an experienced San Diego wrongful death attorney to determine if they have a valid case. Their attorney will review the evidence and facts of the case and see if it makes sense to pursue a claim for damages. If the driver of the Jeep is responsible (or partly responsible) for Burton’s death, they will likely move forward with a wrongful death claim.
For more information about filing a wrongful death lawsuit in San Diego contact Injury Trial Lawyers, APC for a free consultation. We will review your case, determine liability, and answer any questions you have.