Pursuing a Civil Lawsuit in California if You Have Lost a Loved One to an Accident Caused by an Intoxicated Driver

The headlines, regrettably, are numerous and gut-wrenching and, just as bad, they just seem to keep coming. In mid-March, a 70-year-old woman from Newark died in Fremont. The compact sedan in which she was a passenger was hit by an allegedly drunk driver behind the wheel of a minivan. Also in mid-March, a driver allegedly drove drunk, blew through a red light in Sacramento County and slammed into a compact sedan, killing a 9-year-old boy and injuring his mother. In early March, a Sacramento man received a 125-year sentence for his role in an East Bay crash that left two brothers and their respective teenage sons all dead.

These accidents are horrifying and, in many cases, the criminal legal system punishes the wrongdoers. However, what about the loved ones left behind? What about the losses that they have incurred as a result of these terrible acts? While, without question, no amount of cash settlement or damages award can ever take the place of the love and companionship of a lost family member or someone else dear to your heart, that undeniable truth in no way diminishes another unavoidable fact: the misconduct of these drivers inflicts serious harm on their victims’ families, that much of that harm is financial in nature and the families should be entitled to seek compensation in court for those losses.

There are two ways that a surviving loved one can go about pursuing a civil claim for damages. If the drunk driver was convicted of driving while intoxicated, then that criminal case history helps your civil case. You can pursue your case as a negligence per se action. That means that the defendant violated a statute or regulation, that the violation caused the harm you’ve alleged and that the harm resulted from the defendant’s particular conduct in engaging in actions that the law was designed to prevent. As you can see, if the drunk driver who killed your loved one has been convicted of both driving while intoxicated and drunk-driving-related homicide, then that criminal case gives you most all the proof you need for liability in this type of case.

Even if the driver was never convicted for driving while intoxicated – for whatever reason – that does not mean that your case is without hope. You may still sue the driver for negligence. In this scenario, you need to show that, regardless of the lack of a criminal conviction, the defendant engaged in conduct that breached the duty of care to others on the road, and that this breach was what caused the fatal accident.

Once you have established the drunk driver’s liability, you must also establish the amount of damages. You can obtain two different sets of damages. One is called economic damages, and the other is called non-economic damages. Economic damages are things that can be firmly calculated. They’re things like lost income damages or medical/funeral expense damages. Non-economic damages include things that aren’t as easily quantifiable, such as pain and suffering.

For the first group, your case may benefit from expert testimony, perhaps by a doctor and/or an economist/business expert. For the latter, you may need more personal testimony.

Whatever your case needs, your skilled San Mateo auto injury and wrongful death attorney can help. To get the reliable advice and representation you deserve, consult the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos. Our team can help you achieve the positive results you need. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Injured Passenger Receives $12M in Damages Award for Injuries Suffered in Southern California Drunk Driving Accident, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 6, 2017

California Pedestrians Recover $3M From Drunk Driver’s Insurer for Its Failure to Settle Civil Case, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published August 5, 2016