No one ever expects to be in a car accident, especially one that results in the tragic loss of a loved one. A devastating situation like a rideshare accident can leave you feeling overwhelmed, unsure of what steps to take next.

If your loved one has died in a motor vehicle accident, your family may deserve significant financial compensation.

First, you must go through the wrongful death process before receiving a settlement or jury award. This process can be lengthy and complex, and it may be the last thing you want to deal with when going through an excruciatingly difficult time. Unfortunately, the legal system does not stop for your family because you are grieving the loss of a loved one.

The best move your family can make is to hire a Bakersfield wrongful death lawyer to handle your case. An experienced attorney can investigate the car accident and handle all communications with the insurance company.

They can spearhead your fight for financial compensation in all aspects of your case. It costs you nothing out of your pocket to get the legal help you need, but not hiring an attorney can cost you everything. Insurance companies cut you no breaks just because your family has lost a loved one and is dealing with immeasurable grief.

Bakersfield Roads Are Far More Dangerous than the Rest of California

Although California’s motor vehicle fatality rate is in line with the national average, the situation in Kern County is far worse, with a fatality rate that is almost twice the national average. One of the reasons why this area is so dangerous is because it has a drunk driving rate that is far higher than the national average.

In addition, Bakersfield is at the crossroads of several major metropolitan areas, and any people who pass through Bakersfield are not from the area and may not know the roads.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Fatal Traffic Accident

To qualify for financial compensation, your family needs to file a wrongful death claim. This type of case is similar to other personal injury actions, albeit with some key differences. The result is that your family can receive compensation for the loss of a loved one.

Like any personal injury case, your family must prove that there was some wrongful action that took the life of your loved one and caused your family losses.

Here, the wrongful action is recklessness or negligence. The definition of reckless driving is:

“A person who operates a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property.”

How Negligence Works in a Wrongful Death Claim

Negligence is the same concept that you see over and over again in personal injury cases. The legal definition of negligence is that a driver who owes you a duty of care did something unreasonable under the circumstances. The legal system will compare these actions to a reasonable driver’s actions under similar circumstances.

Bakersfield Fatal Motor Vehicle Accidents

Here are examples of actions that are negligent or reckless in a car accident:

  • Crossing the centerline into another lane and causing a head-on car accident
  • Losing control of a car or being unable to stop in time to avoid an accident because the driver was speeding
  • Getting behind the wheel while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance
  • Forcing a car off the road because the driver did not correctly check their blind spot before changing lanes
  • Slamming into another vehicle because a distracted driver was looking down at their phone
  • Colliding with another car because the driver ran a red light or stop sign

How to Prove that Another Driver Was Negligent

When you file any personal injury claim or lawsuit, you have the burden of proof to show that someone else was to blame for what happened. You do not have to prove your case with absolute 100 percent certainty; this is what a prosecutor must do when trying a criminal case. Your burden is to prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence, which means 51 percent certainty.

Your family may have some difficulty proving that the other driver was negligent. After all, your loved one is no longer here to testify about what happened in the car accident.

You will need to piece together what happened after the fact in a manner that can persuade either an insurance company or a jury that someone else should be legally responsible for the accident.

This task is not one that you should handle on your own. Not only will you need to investigate, but you also must gather evidence that you can use in your claim. Most people do not have this capacity, and they have even less bandwidth when dealing with grief.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

When your loved one dies in a traffic accident, your remedy is a wrongful death lawsuit or claim.

The following people can file a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Surviving spouses
  • Domestic partners
  • Children
  • Minor children who were dependent on the deceased person for more than 50 percent of their financial support
  • Grandchildren (if the children are deceased)
  • Anyone else who can inherit property from the deceased person under California’s intestate laws (which can include parents and siblings if there is nobody on the above list to inherit the property)

While each of these people can receive wrongful death damages, there will be only one lawsuit. Ideally, the family will work together to pursue financial compensation with one attorney’s help. The last thing that a family wants to do is battle during this challenging time and have to involve the courts in a wrongful death case.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

Your family can get wrongful death damages when you can prove that the traffic accident was someone else’s fault. Here, the personal injury is that you lost a loved one to someone else’s wrongful actions, and the damages are what you lost when your family member died.

Wrongful death damages can include:

  • The income that your loved one would have earned had they lived and continued to work
  • The grief and trauma that the family endured because they suddenly and tragically lost a loved one
  • The loss of the close, loving relationship that you had with the loved one or the guidance that the family received from them
  • Loss of consortium damages for a spouse who no longer has a physical relationship with their partner

Potential compensation after a fatal car accident | The Law Offices of Mickey Fine

Survival Actions When a Family Member Dies

If the car accident victim did not die immediately after the crash, the estate may file a survival action. You will file this case alongside the wrongful death case since they use the same operative set of facts.

A survival case will yield the more traditional personal injury damages, such as:

  • The medical expenses necessary to treat the person before they died
  • The income that they did not earn between the time of the accident and their death
  • The pain and suffering that they endured before they died
  • The emotional distress that they experienced from the accident before they died

Beginning the Wrongful Death Legal Process

After your loved one has died, you have no choice but to begin the legal process, even if you are not going to file a claim or lawsuit immediately. You will at least need to start building the case to form the basis of your claim or lawsuit.

Of course, your family is in no shape to do any of this yourself, and you may not want to delve too much into the details of an accident that took the life of your loved one.

You can begin the legal process by calling an experienced wrongful death attorney to represent your family when filing a claim or lawsuit. Then, the attorney will handle all the case details, protecting your family from too much involvement and dealing with the insurance company. Your attorney can also help you determine the timing of when you file your case. A lawyer representing you very early in the process can fully protect your legal rights.

How to Obtain Compensation for a Wrongful Death

You have legal options once you establish that someone else was to blame for the accident. The first thing that you may do is to file a claim directly with the responsible driver’s insurance company.

It must defend its policyholder and pay the claim up to the policy limit amount. Some people opt to begin dealing directly with the insurance company out of court because it can mean that they reach a quicker settlement.

Never expect insurance companies to make settlement discussions easy on you.

They can use the following tricks to make your life harder:

  • Taking a long time to respond to your claim to drag out the process
  • Pointing a finger at your loved one, claiming that they were either entirely or partially to blame for the accident
  • Making you lowball settlement offers, trying to get you to accept far less than you deserve
  • Minimizing the effect that the passing of your loved one had on your family

You can also begin the legal process directly in court by filing a lawsuit against the responsible driver. You will still have to deal with the insurance company, which steps into the shoes of its policyholder. Suppose you can obtain a verdict over the amount of the policyholder’s coverage. In that case, you can get a judgment that enables you to seize the driver’s assets (although it is challenging to collect on a personal injury judgment).

The settlement negotiations process is complicated. Insurance companies do not like to pay claims, no matter the circumstances, and you can expect them to make low settlement offers that you will have to counter. Eventually, you will reach a settlement agreement, whether you have filed a claim or a lawsuit in court.

Filing Underinsured Motorist Claims for Wrongful Deaths

Your damages may be greater than the amount of coverage that the responsible driver had.

At this point, you can file a claim against the underinsured motorist coverage that your loved one had; hopefully, they were prudent and had a large amount of this coverage. Then, you will look to your own insurance company to make up the shortfall, although no insurance companies like to pay claims.

You can expect your insurance company to give you a similarly hard time because it prefers to avoid writing checks. Your attorney may need to deal with two recalcitrant insurance companies to get you as much compensation as possible for your loved one’s death.

Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer Right After the Car Accident

You need to hire an experienced wrongful death attorney to handle your case in the days after the accident. Even though your family is grieving, you cannot wait too long to get legal help because it can make your case harder.

Insurance companies think nothing of trying to take advantage of a family that is in the throes of their grief. Not only can an attorney help ease your burden during a difficult time, but their presence and effort can lead to more compensation for your family, even after paying an attorney their share of your settlement or award.Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer

If you fear that stretched finances will keep you from hiring an attorney, you can rest a little easier. No money is necessary, either upfront or while your case is pending. Legal help does not come for free, but it will if you do not receive compensation in your case.

Your wrongful death attorney works for you on a contingency basis, and they only get paid from the proceeds of your case should you receive them. They do not get any money from you before that point.

Losing a loved one in a car accident is a devastating experience, but hiring a wrongful death attorney can provide you with the support and experience you need to seek justice and hold those responsible accountable.

Do not face a car accident alone. Contact a Bakersfield personal injury attorney who can provide you with the guidance and legal representation you need during this difficult time.