Every 90 minutes, a pedestrian is struck and killed by a motorist in the United States. People on foot are incredibly vulnerable in traffic crashes because they have zero protection from the force of impact. As such, even low-speed collisions have the potential to cause debilitating injuries and even death.
If your loved one died from accident-related injuries that he or she sustained while on foot, your family may have grounds for legal action. Let’s take a look at the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about pursuing damages in such a scenario:
1. Who May Be Liable for a Fatal Pedestrian Accident?
When a motorist strikes and kills a pedestrian, there are a few parties that could be deemed responsible. If the driver in question was being negligent—by speeding through a red light, for example—he or she would likely be liable. If, on the other hand, the traffic signals were faulty or the crosswalk was not clearly visible, the municipality responsible for maintaining the roads may be found at fault.
Depending on the circumstances of the crash, other drivers in the vicinity may also be to blame. Finally, the pedestrian may have played a role in the incident by jaywalking or crossing where motorists never anticipate having to stop for people, such as on the highway.
2. How Can I Prove Liability for the Accident in Which My Loved One Was Killed?
The strongest evidence of liability will depend on the circumstances. After evaluating the situation, a resourceful wrongful death attorney can help you gather the evidence needed to establish fault, which may include:
- Photographs of the scene;
- Statements from eyewitnesses;
- The police report;
- The results of any chemical tests conducted at the scene or shortly thereafter;
- Cell phone records;
- Dash cam recordings or relevant surveillance footage from the vicinity;
- Vehicle maintenance records;
- Road maintenance records; and
- City planning schematics.
3. What Kinds of Damages May Be Recoverable in Successful Wrongful Death Cases?
In successful wrongful death cases, California allows for the recovery of “just” damages. Naturally, what’s considered “just” differs from case to case.
As a general rule, the payout that may result should compensate surviving loved ones for both the economic and non-economic losses they incur as a result of the death. Examples include:
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses;
- Wages and benefits the deceased would have earned over the rest of his or her lifetime;
- Loss of household services such as childcare, cleaning, meal preparation, transportation, and pet care; and
- Loss of love, affection, moral support, encouragement, attention, and guidance.
In addition to the compensatory damages listed above, California allows for punitive damages when warranted. If the liable party’s conduct constituted malice, oppression, or fraud, it may be possible to recover a punitive award. Most pedestrian accidents don’t involve such wrongdoing; however, if the motorist intentionally struck your loved one, you may be able to make a case for punitive damages.
4. Will My Family Have to Go to Trial?
It’s natural to put off taking legal action in the wake of an unanticipated loss. Your family has enough to worry about, after all, without having to navigate complicated legal proceedings.
Fortunately, most wrongful death cases are resolved out of court, which means the chance that you will actually have to appear before a judge is low. Even if you end up filing a formal lawsuit, your case might be resolved through discovery or alternative dispute resolution.
5. How Long Do Surviving Family Members Have to Take Legal Action?
If the opposing party disputes liability or otherwise proves uncooperative, your family will have a limited amount of time to file suit. In California, the standard statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits founded on negligence is two years. That means most cases must be filed within two years from the date of death.
Because there are a number of exceptions to this statute, though, it’s wise to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. If you attempt to bring your lawsuit after the applicable deadline has passed, the judge will likely dismiss it.
6. How Can My Family Strengthen Our Wrongful Death Case?
To give your case the best chance of success, call a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. This will give your legal team the chance to gather potentially time-sensitive evidence before it’s doctored or destroyed. It will also ensure you don’t miss any critical filing deadlines.
Other ways to strengthen a pedestrian accident wrongful death claim include:
- Tracking all damages diligently;
- Staying off social media (and instructing other family members to do the same);
- Referring all correspondence to your legal team; and
- Refusing to give a recorded statement to the at-fault party or insurance company.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Wrongful Death Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Not all personal injury attorneys have the resources or experience to help grieving families hold those responsible for a relative’s death accountable, but attorney Michael D. Waks has a track record of success in such cases. If your loved one was struck by a drunk, distracted, or otherwise reckless driver while on foot, Michael D. Waks can help you pursue the compensation needed to pick up the pieces in the wake of the loss. Call (562) 206-1939 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free consultation with a wrongful death attorney in Long Beach.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency Response .PDF
It never hurts to be prepared, and if you walk alongside moving traffic often, there’s a chance you will end up in a pedestrian accident someday. By downloading our Car Accident Emergency Response .pdf and storing it on your phone, you will always have a comprehensive guide on hand to help you document the scene after disaster strikes. If you own a vehicle, keep a copy in your glovebox, as well, and encourage all your loved ones to do the same. Download it HERE for free.
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