For nearly all of us, the death of a child as a result of the carelessness and negligence of somebody else is unimaginable, but thousands of children die every year from injuries suffered in accidents. Most of those deaths could have been avoided. California law contemplates such tragedies, and the state has enacted statutes governing the rights of parents who have suffered and continue to suffer through the wrongful death of a child.
A Child’s Death in Turlock
An 11-year-old girl died in a traffic accident that occurred in Turlock early last week when a man who was driving a vehicle at a high rate of speed hit a motorcycle and crashed into a Honda Civic that the girl was a passenger in. The driver who allegedly caused the accident fled the scene, but he turned himself in to authorities the next morning. He was charged with manslaughter and causing an accident with personal injuries.
The Burden of Proof
In the criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proving the defendant driver guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A criminal court can’t award damages though. Wrongful death cases are civil cases that damages can be awarded in, and they carry a burden of proof of a preponderance of the evidence. What that means is that the facts of the case as laid out by the personal representative of the deceased is more likely true than not true. That civil lawsuit can be filed at the same time that the criminal case is pending. Each case would be heard by a different judge and jury in a different courtroom.
Assuming that the deceased child’s personal representative can prove liability for the accident, he or she must also prove damages. Here are some of the damages that California law allows a jury to consider in a wrongful death case involving a minor child:
- Medical bills from the date of the accident until the time of the child’s death.
- Costs of the child’s funeral and burial.
- Loss of the companionship of the child.
- The anguish and grief of the child’s surviving family.
The Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations in a personal injury case governs how long a person has to file a lawsuit seeking damages. The general rule is that for anybody over 18 years of age, the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the accident. For an injured minor, the limitations period would be two years after the minor’s 18th birthday. Don’t let that fool you though. As per section 335.1 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, the personal representative of a deceased minor has only two years from the date of the minor’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. There are few exceptions to this statute.
Some Other Important Issues
There are other critical issues that might arise in any personal injury or wrongful death case involving a child. Those might include who can act as the child’s representative if the child’s parents are unmarried or divorced, or whether the child or a parent might be held liable for any comparative negligence.
If you lost a child as a result of the recklessness or negligence of somebody else, don’t talk with any representatives of the insurer of the person or entity who carelessly took your child’s life. The insurer’s representative might seem concerned and sympathetic, but he or she will only be trying to save their employer money on a highly sensitive and costly lawsuit.
Rather than speaking with that opposing insurer, arrange for a free confidential consultation and case evaluation with us. We’re going to listen to you carefully, answer your questions truthfully and advise you of all of your legal rights and options. By giving us the opportunity to do that, you’ll be making an informed decision on how you wish to proceed.