Fatal car accidents are tragically a part of life in Murrieta and the rest of Southern California, where the car is the cornerstone of transportation. In 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported over 36,000 traffic fatalities – in 2017 California lost over 3,600 people on its roads alone. In 2016, Murrieta reported 529 injuries and fatalities from traffic accidents. The tragedy of losing life is only compounded by the fact so many of these accidents were avoidable; almost 80 percent happened due to some type of distracted driving. If someone else’s negligent behavior caused a traffic fatality, you should contact an experienced Murrieta Fatal Car Accident Attorney today to see whether you may be entitled to compensation for yourself or on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
Murrieta, a busy commuter town of more than 113,000, has grown by 133% in the last 10 years. A commuter town seated between the busy 215 and 15 freeways, travel on busy roads in heavy traffic is a daily occurrence for most of the community. It’s no surprise that given risky behavior on the roads, combined with the fact 61 percent of fatal accidents occur in urban areas like Murrieta, catastrophic accidents occur frequently. California’s Office of Traffic Safety reported 529 traffic related injuries and fatalities in Murrieta in 2016. In 2018, a woman was killed by an intoxicated driver at the intersection of Murrieta Hot Springs and Whitewood, and in 2019 a bus rear-ended a passenger vehicle on the southbound 215 south of Los Alamos Road, killing the driver. These unfortunate fatalities are tragic indicators that even when practicing safe driving practices, motorists in Murrieta are still at risk.
How Do Fatal Accidents Happen?
Unfortunately, the majority of fatal car accidents occur because someone did something they shouldn’t while operating a motor vehicle. Distracted driving is the main culprit triggering motor vehicle accidents, but there are a number of other negligent, reckless, or even intentional behaviors that can result in fatalities and liability.
- Driving while intoxicated – though the statistics aren’t in on drivers under the influence of drugs, 62 percent of California drivers killed had a measurable blood alcohol content at the time of the collision.
- Drowsy driving – statistically, sleep-deprived or drowsy drivers are as dangerous behind the wheel as drivers under the influence.
- Speeding – freeways and other major roadways with elevated speed limits result in a disproportionate number of fatalities as compared to smaller, more local roads. Studies have shown traveling at just 5 extra miles an hour can cause an 8 percent fatality rate increase in a traffic collision.
- Poor Road Conditions or Poor Weather Conditions
- Mechanical or Equipment Failure
- Running Stop Signs or Red Lights at Intersections
- Cell Phone Use While Driving
Though there are many more behaviors that can cause fatal accidents, these behaviors do suggest negligence on the part of at least one party – drivers, vehicle manufacturers, or even auto body shops. All these parties can be sued by a loved one or and decedent’s estate for damages from a fatal accident caused by their negligence.
Who Can Sue for Fatal Car Accident Injuries?
Even though the person killed in a Murrieta car accident can’t sue for their own injuries, there are ways to recover in these cases. If the deceased didn’t expire instantaneously when they suffered their injuries, the representative of their estate can bring a survival action to recover for harms the deceased suffered between injury and death.
In addition, whether the deceased died instantly or not, eligible family members may bring a wrongful death claim for injuries they personally sustained due to the death. Generally, the only people who may bring a wrongful death claim are the deceased’s:
- Surviving spouse or registered domestic partner,
- Children, and
- Living grandchildren (if the grandchild’s parent is a deceased child of the casualty).
If none of these relatives exist, certain family members may then sue if they can demonstrate financial dependence on the decedent. This class includes the deceased’s:
- Putative spouse,
- Children of the putative spouse,
- Stepchildren, and
How Do I Recover for a Fatal Car Accident?
Victims who have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident commonly claim negligence in court as a basis for recovering damages. To establish negligence, a victim must prove:
- The defendant had a legal duty of care to the victim,
- Breached that duty through act or omission,
- Caused the victim’s harm by way of their breach, and
- Actually harmed the victim.
Once these elements are established, the defendant is presumed to have acted negligently and will be responsible for the victim’s harms without a valid legal defense.
What is My Case Worth?
Once you have established someone’s negligence was responsible for a fatal car accident in Murrieta, you may be entitled to recover damages for your injuries. Though nothing will bring your loved one back, courts may award compensatory damages and, in some cases, punitive damages.
In a survival action, the estate of the deceased – through the representative of the estate – may be awarded damages for the harms incurred between infliction of the deceased’s injuries and their death such as:
- Property damage,
- Lost wages,
- Funeral or burial costs, and
- Medical bills.
The estate may also be given punitive damages to punish a defendant’s particularly vile or reprehensible behavior, but these damages are difficult to establish and awarding them is completely up to the judge or jury in the case.
In a wrongful death action, eligible family members may recover compensatory damages intended to make them whole for:
- Loss of the financial support expected from the deceased,
- The value of the deceased’s love, affection, and companionship lost from the accident, and
- Loss of the value of services contributed to their household by the deceased.
Family members, however, can’t seek or recover punitive in a wrongful death action.
The complicated nature of proving causation, establishing a high burden of proof for punitive damages, establishing some types of compensatory damages, and understanding limitations on damages for different causes of action make it wise to consult an experienced Murrieta Fatal Car Accident Attorney to navigate the tricky legal waters of your case.
Speak with an Attorney
If a loved one was involved in a fatal car accident, you should contact the experienced Temecula Fatal Car Accident Attorneys at Walton Law, APC right away. Even though nothing will make up for the loss of your loved one, we can help you protect your legal rights and fight for compensation you deserve from this needless tragedy. Our attorneys have been delivering tailored, dedicated representation for victims like you for years and recovered millions on their behalf. Contact us today to schedule your risk-free, no obligation case evaluation today. We are available 24/7 at (866) 338-7079 or through our online Contact Page to set up your initial consultation. There is no charge, and you pay nothing until we win your case. Let our attorneys review your unique case and start working towards best possible outcome from this tragic situation today.