What Should You Do if Your Loved One Was Involved in a Fatal Accident on I-5 in California?
Car accidents that result in the death of someone involved are undoubtedly the most devastating. Sadly, fatal car accidents can occur anytime a negligent or reckless driver practices unsafe driving behaviors, such as tailgating, speeding, making phone calls, texting, driving under the influence, and more.
We know that nothing can take away the grief and sorrow you feel after a member of your family is killed in a California car accident. The situation is even worse when you learn that their death could have been avoided. This article is here to help you figure out what to do after you have suffered such a terrible loss. Read on to learn more about what you should do if your loved one was involved in a fatal accident on I-5.
The most important thing you should do if your family member died in a negligence-based accident is to contact a California wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to help you seek financial compensation for your family’s loss.
Aside from contacting an attorney immediately, there are some additional things you can do to help ensure you have a solid case. Those are as follows:
- Request a copy of the accident report from the responding police.
- Request your loved one’s medical records, as you will need them to establish that the wreck caused their fatal injuries.
- Get as much evidence as you can from the accident, such as photos, videos, witness statements, and anything else that you think could be important later.
- Start adding up all of economic damages your family has experienced due to the loss so far. This usually includes funeral and burial expenses, probate expenses, medical costs, and your loved one’s lost wages.
Fatal Car Accident Investigation Procedures
After a fatal California traffic accident on Interstate 5, law enforcement will report to the scene, take statements from those involved, interview any eyewitnesses, and begin conducting an investigation. The outcome of this investigation can have a significant effect on a wrongful death suit.
Anytime someone is fatally injured during a car accident, there are specific actions anyone else involved is required to take. The first is to notify law enforcement. California drivers are required to inform the police of any traffic accident that involves major injuries, fatal or otherwise. The quickest way to notify law enforcement and receive medical aid is by calling 911.
The task of investigating a deadly car crash or semi-truck accident on Interstate 5 will fall to one of several law enforcement groups. Every area of the state is split into different municipal jurisdictions, each with its own set of law enforcement agencies. There are also state agencies that investigate fatal car accidents.
If an accident takes place inside city limits, local police are the most likely to be dispatched. When a fatal accident takes place on an interstate, such as Interstate 5, however, the California Highway Patrol may be dispatched to investigate the incident.
What Are Fatal Crash Investigators Looking For?
The police will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident to determine exactly how it occurred. Some collisions result from an unforeseeable event, such as sudden, severe weather or a medical emergency. Other collisions are the result of poor road conditions or driver negligence. When police investigate, they are gathering as much relevant information as they can from the crash scene. Some details they will document in their accident report are as follows:
- Location, date, and time of the accident
- Weather conditions
- The names and contact details of everyone involved and their injuries
- Insurance coverage for all involved parties
- If drugs or alcohol were a factor
- The names and contact details of any eyewitnesses
- If poor road conditions or a traffic hazard were present
- Any damage to other vehicles
- A sketch that shows the layout of the accident scene
- Estimated speed of all involved vehicles
Responding officers can not always draw a conclusion as to what caused a fatal car crash. They are, however, required to determine whether or not any criminal activity caused the collision. This can result in an arrest should they discover proof that a driver was under the influence at the time of the crash.
The Results of the Investigation Can Affect a Wrongful Death Case
In addition to being responsible for establishing if a crime has been committed, police are also tasked with ensuring public safety by mitigating any potential traffic hazard caused by an accident. Creating a strong case for negligence for a possible wrongful death lawsuit is neither one of their strengths nor one of their responsibilities. Despite this, their investigation has the power to play a very influential role in any upcoming lawsuit.
The information gathered by the police during their investigation can be extremely beneficial to a California wrongful death lawyer. Although the police crash report itself cannot be used at trial, a criminal conviction against the negligent driver can be. A conviction for DUI or another traffic violation may be presented as proof of negligence.
If you lost a family member in an Interstate 5 traffic accident, and you want to see the police report, you can request your free copy of the California police crash report.
What Additional Steps Should Be Taken After a Fatal Crash?
The fallout of a fatal vehicle collision is similar somewhat with a crash involving only non-fatal injuries. Both scenarios will result in law enforcement officers responding to the scene, clearing the traffic hazard, and performing an investigation. When injuries prove to be fatal, however, additional steps are taken.
Along with police, the coroner will usually attend the scene to conduct a preliminary investigation into the fatality. The body will then be transported to the morgue.
In most cases, an autopsy will be conducted. This is actually quite common among drivers who die in an accident for reasons that cannot be immediately explained. These autopsies often reveal that the accident was caused by either a fatal medical emergency or a medical emergency that turned fatal due to the resulting accident.
What Is a California Wrongful Death Action?
California defines wrongful death as any death that is caused by the maliciousness, negligence, or dereliction of a person or entity. Wrongful death actions are civil claims to recover financial compensation for the death of a loved one. Depending on the facts of the accident, the defendant might also be facing criminal charges.
The majority of California wrongful death claims are brought under the following circumstances:
- Accidents involving cars, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, trucks and other vehicles
- Premises liability accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Child injury accidents
- Willful misconduct (this may involve a criminal case)
Who is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Case in California?
Pursuant to state law, only specific people are entitled to pursue a claim for compensation if a member of their family is killed in a car crash. They are:
- The deceased’s surviving domestic partner or spouse
- The deceased’s surviving children
- If the deceased’s children are dead, then their grandchildren will be eligible
If none of the above-listed family members exist, then anyone entitled to the deceased’s estate according to California’s intestate succession laws may bring a wrongful death action, including the siblings or parents of the deceased.
Additionally, certain parties who were financially dependent on the victim at the time of the accident may pursue a wrongful death claim. They are:
- The victim’s putative spouse (someone who mistakenly but reasonably believed they were married to the deceased)
- The putative spouse’s children
- Parents of the deceased
- If the victim’s parents are deceased, then their legal guardian will be eligible
What Damages Are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The specific types of financial compensation that are awarded in a wrongful death case will depend on the circumstances surrounding the death and are significantly different than the ones the victim could have sought had they survived their accident. Wrongful death damages that are typically available to surviving family members after a fatal I-5 accident are:
- Loss of the deceased’s economic contributions and expected economic contributions to the household
- Loss and expected loss of domestic services supplied by the deceased
- Loss of affection, attention, fellowship, marital relations, and emotional support from the deceased
- Funeral, and burial or cremation expenses
The victim’s estate might also have a separate claim against the at-fault party for other damages, like the medical bills the deceased accrued before they passed.
What Is California’s Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
California personal injury law states that a wrongful death lawsuit has to be filed within a pre-established amount of time. This deadline is referred to as the statute of limitations and, in California, ends two years from the day of the victim’s passing, which will not necessarily be the same as the day of their accident. If a wrongful death suit is not brought before the statute expires, eligible family members will lose their right to seek recovery for their damages for good.
If you lost a member of your family in a traffic collision that was caused by a negligent driver, you need the legal guidance of an experienced California wrongful death attorney from I-5 Accidents. We will work hard to collect relevant evidence that supports your story, build a compelling case, negotiate a just settlement, and, if necessary, take your case to trial to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
Did You Lose a Loved One in a Fatal I-5 Car Accident?
If you lost a loved one in a traffic accident on Interstate 5 in California, consult a reputable California wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or give us a call to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.