We all know how the criminal justice system deals with people who drive while impaired, including intoxicated drivers who cause death or injuries to others. However, what about those victims or the loved ones the victims left behind? What recourse do they have other than waiting to see justice done in criminal court? For those harmed individuals, there is the potential of civil legal action to provide the help they urgently need. That process starts with retaining a knowledgeable San Mateo drunk driver accident lawyer to help your family start getting back on their feet.
Two recent fatal accidents highlight just how harmful impaired driving can be. Late last month, emergency workers responded to a three-vehicle collision at Santa Inez Avenue and Humboldt Drive here in San Mateo. According to police, blood alcohol testing revealed that the 24-year-old woman behind the wheel of one of the vehicles had a blood alcohol content of roughly .20, or 2½ times the legal limit.
One day after the crash, the 40-year-old woman riding with the allegedly drunk driver died in the hospital, according to the Mercury News.
Earlier this month, a 26-year-old San Mateo man was behind the wheel when his vehicle and a big rig collided in Hayward. The crash left him dead and his passenger with “major injuries,” according to a KPIX 5 report. Law enforcement officers said they believed the truck driver “was not at fault in the collision” and that “alcohol played a role,” seemingly indicating a suspicion that the San Mateo man was driving drunk.
Two Different Lawsuits to Help Your Family
Here in California, an accident where your loved one was killed in a vehicle accident caused by an intoxicated driver may potentially trigger the pursuit of two legal actions: a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival lawsuit.
The wrongful death lawsuit is the legal action designed to compensate the loved ones left behind and harmed by the victim’s death. The law permits several different people to pursue a wrongful death action, including a surviving spouse/domestic partner, children, or people financially dependent on the deceased (like stepchildren), among others.
In your wrongful death lawsuit, you can seek compensation for things like the lost wages your deceased loved one would have earned, as well as the loss of the deceased’s love and companionship.
In some circumstances, you may be entitled to pursue punitive damages on top of these other damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and/or send a message to the broader society regarding how exceedingly unacceptable the defendant’s behavior was. If you can prove that the drunk driver knew that “probable serious injury” would result from their actions, then that is a case where you can possibly obtain punitive damages.
Additionally, there’s a lawsuit called a survival action. This is something that provides compensation for the harm your deceased loved one suffered in the period between the accident and their death and includes things like mental anguish and pain and suffering. This action is available in most situations except when the deceased died immediately. For example, in the crash that occurred here in San Mateo, the victim didn’t die until the next day, spending time in considerable pain and anguish in those hours before her death.
There are fewer people who can bring a survival action as compared to wrongful death lawsuits. To sue, you must be a representative of the deceased’s probate estate. If there is no estate, then you have to be what the law calls a “successor-in-interest,” which can include someone like a surviving spouse or possibly a child.
Intoxicated driving accidents that result in death or catastrophic injury are life-changing events, including for the loved ones who depended on the victim. Certainly, no amount of money can replace your loved one’s life or health, but that undeniable truth does not erase the fact that your family now has many new bills to pay and a lot less income with which to make ends meet. When it comes time to seek justice in civil court, call upon the thoughtful and diligent San Mateo drunk driver accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos. We’ve helped many families who’ve been hurt by drunk drivers, and we’re ready to get to work for you. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.