Police are searching for a hit and run driver following a fatal bicycle accident in South Los Angeles. According to reports, Thomas Demetrius Adams, a 58-year-old man, was riding a bicycle at the corner of 49th Street and Compton Boulevard when he fell in front of a van. The van was unable to stop before running the fallen cyclist over. The van’s driver, described as a woman in her 20s, immediately got out of the van and tried to help the dying man. Shortly after, she hopped into a pickup truck and fled the scene. Adams was transported to the L.A. County-USC Medical Center where he died from his injuries.
Adams’ family is in shock following his tragic and unexpected death. As a father and husband, Adams was a pillar of the family and provided a great deal of financial and emotional support. His family may be entitled to damages from the hit-and-run driver. They will likely discuss the possibility of filing a wrongful death claim with a Los Angeles personal injury attorney.
Why the Family Should Consider Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
When a victim is injured because of the negligent or wrongful conduct of another person they can recover compensation for the harms they suffer. Wrongful death lawsuits are similar, in that they allow family members of fatal accident victims to recover compensation for the harms they suffer. However, it is important to distinguish wrongful death claims from personal injury claims. Families generally cannot recover damages that their now-deceased loved one would have been entitled to had he survived. Instead, wrongful death lawsuits can help them to recover compensation for the harms they have personally suffered.
So, what kind of damages can the Adams family recover if they file a wrongful death lawsuit? California law allows plaintiffs to ask for economic, non-economic, and (in certain cases) punitive damages.
Economic damages are based entirely on the financial burdens a family faces because of the unexpected loss of a family member. These damages can be awarded to make up for the financial losses they suffer, including:
- Medical bills incurred between the time of the accident and the victim’s death;
- Funeral and burial costs;
- Lost financial support; and
- Lost wages.
Non-economic damages are not tied to the financial losses a family suffers. Instead, non-economic damages are based on hard-to-value emotional, physical, and psychological harms. These injuries may not necessarily cost the victim any money, but this does not mean that they are any less harmful. Non-economic damages can be awarded to compensate for family members for harms include:
- Emotional trauma;
- Loss of enjoyment of life; and
- Loss of consortium.
Punitive damages are not usually available in California personal injury cases. However, a family may be awarded punitive damages if they can prove that the defendant acted maliciously. In order to prove this, a plaintiff must show that the defendant “was aware of the probable dangerous consequences of his conduct, and that he wilfully and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences.”
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Who has the right to file a wrongful death claim after the loss of a loved one? In California, most family members have the right to pursue a claim. However, there is a certain hierarchy that limits when claims can be brought, and by whom.
Spouses, domestic partners, and children of fatal accident victims have the primary right to file a wrongful death claim for damages. If none of these relationships exist, any person having a relationship with the victim who can prove that they depended on the victim financially can file a wrongful death claim. Parents, siblings, and step-children are prime examples of family members who may have the right to file a claim.
What if the Defendant Can’t Be Found?
In California, wrongful death claims have to be filed within two years of the fatal accident. Families who do not file a claim before the statute of limitations expires will probably not be able to get the money they need and deserve. What happens if the defendant can’t be found? Or, as is the case for the Adams, what happens if the hit-and-run driver is convicted and sent away to prison? Fortunately, these circumstances would not necessarily prohibit the Adams from getting the money they need.
The statute of limitations can be tolled, or paused, when certain extenuating circumstances are present. If the statute of limitations had no flexibility, some victims would be unjustly denied the opportunity to recover compensation. When a defendant cannot be located or is incarcerated, families and victims can ask to have the statute of limitations tolled. Once the defendant is available to participate in legal proceedings the family’s claim can proceed without issue.
Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorneys
If you have recently suffered the unexpected loss of a family member you may be entitled to compensation. Call the Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys at Citywide Law Group to learn about the benefits of filing a wrongful death claim. During your free consultation we will review your case, explain the process of filing a claim, and answer the questions you have.