f your loved one was killed in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for that person's wrongful death. Unfortunately, the insurance company for the responsible driver will not give you the information you need to maximize your recovery.
Insurance companies hide information that they do not want you to know. Here are some secrets to wrongful death car accident cases that you will never hear from insurance adjusters.
California does not limit wrongful death damages
Many states impose a limit on the amount of compensation that can be recovered for a wrongful death. Insurance company lobbyists have persuaded legislatures in those states that “runaway juries” will be swayed by sympathy and will award too much money to families of people who are killed by negligent drivers. Perversely, in those states a careless driver's insurance company often pays less when the insured driver takes a life than it does when the driver causes disabling injuries.
California has not given into insurance company lobbyists. The only limit on wrongful death compensation in California is that juries must award a sum that is “reasonable.” What is reasonable is usually up to the jury. While a judge might occasionally overturn a damages verdict that is vastly disproportionate to amounts awarded by other juries in comparable cases, most judges in most cases defer to the jury. That is exactly what judges should do, since it is a jury of ordinary people that reflects the conscience of the community.
Several family members may be entitled to recover compensation
Insurance adjusters always try to make a quick settlement with family members of wrongful death victims. They might imply that the victim's spouse and children are the only persons entitled to receive compensation. If there is no surviving spouse or child, the adjuster might imply that no person has the right to receive compensation. That is not always true.
Same-sex domestic partners often have the right to recover wrongful death compensation under California law. When the deceased victim had no spouse or children, other family members (including siblings and parents) may be entitled to seek compensation. Whether or not the deceased victim had a surviving spouse or children, certain other family members can recover wrongful death compensation if they were financially dependent on the victim.
Never trust an insurance adjuster's explanation of the law. If you want to know whether you have the right to receive compensation for a loved one's death, get advice from a wrongful death lawyer. Some families avoid court by taking advantage of a wrongful death settlement agreement.
You do not need to talk to the insurance adjuster
The insurance adjuster handling the wrongful death claim will want to get information from family members. If those family members witnessed or were involved in the accident, the adjuster will want to take their statements. The adjuster may guide the questioning in a way that leads to answers that favor the insurance company. You should always talk to a lawyer before you talk to an insurance adjuster.
The adjuster will also want to learn about the deceased victim's financial circumstances. The adjuster's role is to minimize the amount of the loss that the insurance company will pay. Assuring that the full amount of loss is made known often requires the assistance of economists, vocational experts, and actuaries. The insurance adjuster will not tell you about the importance of obtaining expert help in order to maximize compensation. Talk to a wrongful death lawyer, not an insurance adjuster, if you want to receive full and fair compensation for your loss.
Accident scene investigations are crucial to wrongful death recoveries
In many cases, fault for an accident is not apparent. A classic example is a head-on collision that occurs near the center line. One vehicle negligently crossed the lane divider, but which one? The insurance adjuster may try to convince you that you have no hope of proving that the other driver was at fault.
An accident reconstruction engineer can make the difference in close cases. By inspecting the accident scene for gouges in the pavement, by examining the vehicles for impact points, and by taking note of where the vehicles came to rest, an accident reconstruction expert can determine where the accident occurred. Reconstruction engineers can also use measurements and mathematical formulas to make estimates of the speed of each vehicle at the time of the collision.
Retaining a CA wrongful death lawyer maximizes your opportunity to recover compensation for a loved one's death. Wrongful death lawyers know how to choose experts who contribute to a successful claim for compensation.