A 16-year-old girl was recently struck and killed while crossing the street in Palmdale. According to reports, the girl was not using a dedicated crosswalk. The driver who struck her is believed to have been under the influence of alcohol. An investigation is still underway. However, the girl’s family is likely thinking about filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the suspected drunk driver.
Drunk Driving in Los Angeles
In California, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You will be considered to be “under the influence” when:
- Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at or exceeds .08 percent, or
- You have some alcohol in your system and police have reason to believe you are not able to drive safely.
Driving drunk can limit reflexes and reduce a driver’s ability to adapt to unexpected road conditions. If the driver in the Palmdale accident was drunk, he likely lacked the skills and reflexes necessary to avoid striking the teen.
The suspected drunk driver can be held financially responsible in a wrongful death lawsuit regardless of whether he is convicted of a crime. Of course, a criminal conviction will be helpful in proving that he was, in fact, negligent. If it is proven that he broke the law, the victim’s family can assert that he was negligent per se. They must then simply rove that his negligence caused their daughter’s death.
Does It Matter That the Victim May Have Been Negligent?
The family may run into complications when the defendant argues that the victim was acting negligently, herself. Reports indicate that the girl was not using a marked crosswalk, as is required by law. Instead, she chose to cross the street by jaywalking, which put her at an increased risk of harm. Drivers behind the wheel of a car are not the only ones who assume a duty to act safely out on the road. Pedestrians have an obligation to follow traffic laws, stay in designated pedestrian areas (when possible), and avoid behaviors that put others in harm’s way. Crosswalks exist to make sure that pedestrians and drivers, alike, are kept safe. These crosswalks are strategically positioned so that pedestrians are highly visible. The likelihood of being struck in a crosswalk is less than the likelihood of being struck at another point in the road. Pedestrians who choose to cross elsewhere may not be visible to drivers, and therefore at a greater risk of harm.
In California, a victim’s own negligence will not necessarily bar their families from recovering compensation. However, the amount of money that they receive may be reduced by their daughter’s degree of fault.
Assigning Fault After an Accident
How is fault determined after an accident? What happens when more than one person is to blame for an accident? What if the victim is partially responsible for his or her own death? A thorough investigation will be required to determine (a) who is at fault and (b) how fault should be apportioned. The ultimate determination of fault will rest with insurance companies or juries, depending on the type of legal claim that is being pursued. The decision will often rely on a thorough analysis of relevant evidence, including:
- Video footage of the accident
- Still photographs of property damage, injuries, and the scene of the crash
- Medical reports
- Police reports
- Eyewitness accounts
- Accident recreations, and
- Expert testimony.
Each party will be apportioned a percentage of fault. If, in the Palmdale case, the victim is determined to have been 30 percent at fault, her family will only be able to recover 70 percent of their total damages. Her role in the accident will have a direct impact on their ability to recover wrongful death damages.
Experienced Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorneys
The victim’s family is more likely to maximize the compensation they receive if they hire an attorney to handle their case. Wrongful death lawsuits can be complicated, especially when the victim plays a role in his or her own death. Hiring an attorney who is familiar with relevant rules and procedures will help to ensure that they are fairly compensated for their tragic loss.
If you have lost a loved one in a Los Angeles accident, do not hesitate to contact Citywide Law Group for help. Our Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys can help navigate this difficult time and make sure that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled. Call today to schedule a free consultation.