Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawsuit

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento wrongful death attorney. Often civil litigation and criminal cases are concurrent or closely follow one another. This can happen when a defendant is charged criminally in an event that resulted in wrongful death. One of the most common reasons for a wrongful death occurs after an auto accident where the defendant was impaired and caused the death of another motorist or pedestrian.

Factors in a Civil Wrongful Death Case

A civil wrongful death case against a negligent party must show:

  • A representative has been appointed to carry the claim forward.
  • The person died due to an event involving negligence
  • The defendant caused the person’s death due to an act of negligence or omission.
  • The act may have been intentional or unintentional.
  • The surviving family is initiating the wrongful death claim.
  • The members of the family are suffering financial harm due to the loss of the decedent.

Showing Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case

Proving negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit is a necessary element. A link between the negligence and the decedent’s death must also be shown. To prove negligence, a wrongful death lawyer must show:

  • The defendant owed a duty to the decedent to not do something that could cause harm. In the case of a DUI accident, the defendant would owe the decedent the duty of not driving drunk.
  • The defendant broke or breached that duty. Records showing that the defendant drove drunk would provide proof of the infraction.
  • The action caused the defendant’s death such that driving drunk was responsible for the accident in which the defendant was killed.

Wrongful Death in a DUI Accident

Driving while impaired, either by drugs or alcohol, is illegal. The charges are based on certain parameters surrounding the accident. Types of charges in California are:

  • DUI manslaughter: No DUI priors were committed.
  • Vehicular manslaughter: An impaired driver failed to heed traffic rules such as stopping at a traffic light.
  • Gross vehicular manslaughter: Gross negligence was involved.
  • DUI murder: Prior DUIs recorded where the defendant went to DUI school sessions discussing death in DUI accidents or signed a Watson advisement. The courts have said that a driver who causes a death in a drunk driving accident could be charged with murder.

Watson Murder Advisement

The case, People v. Watson, involved a drunk driver, Robert Watson, who caused an intersection accident killing two people. The car had entered the intersection illegally and was traveling at 70 mph in a 35 mph zone. The drunk driver had a BAC level of 0.23.

Watson Advisement

Today, the Watson advisement is read to anyone convicted of DUI in California. It states that DUI is reckless behavior and that it can result in death to another person. When someone dies in a DUI accident, if the drunk driver was advised of the possibility of death in a previous DUI incident, they can be charged and convicted of second-degree murder.

Civil Wrongful Death Lawsuit in DUI Accidents

As in other criminal cases, a family may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against someone charged in a Watson murder. Criminal charges require that the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. This conviction can be used in a civil lawsuit to prove that the defendant was driving drunk and caused the person’s death.

How Criminal Charges Can Be Used in a Civil Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A criminal case ends in conviction if the prosecutor is able to show that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This exceeds the bar for proof in civil court, namely a preponderance of the evidence. A criminal conviction can be used in a civil wrongful death case as evidence that the person died due to the extreme negligence of another. Sometimes, a defendant is not charged criminally. This does not negate the illegality of driving drunk nor does it interfere with filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Sacramento Wrongful Death Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento wrongful death attorney. Families are devastated by the grief of knowing their loved one is dead due to the actions of a drunk driver. If this has happened to your family, call my office at (916) 921-6400. If you are outside the area, call (800) 404-5400. You can also reach me online if that is more convenient for you. We can set up a case evaluation where I will give you friendly and free advice.

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Take a moment to peruse my settlements and verdicts page to see what I’ve done for other clients.

The Million Dollar Advocates Forum is comprised of top-rated trial attorneys who have won $1 million verdicts and settlements for their clients. I am a California member.

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