Who can file a wrongful death action after a drunk driving car accident in San Diego?

California – June 6, 2022

When accidents are caused by criminally negligent acts, such as driving under the influence, they may result in delayed insurance settlements until an investigation is undertaken and victims, or surviving loved ones may wonder: “Where can I find attorneys near me?” when wrongful death is the result of a crash and surviving family members need to seek insurance funds to cover unexpected funeral and burial arrangements and will require insurance settlements and damage compensation to pay for negative impacts to fiscal livelihood of surviving family members.   Experienced car accident lawyers can work through the intricacies of a complex accident case by addressing the cited criminal components, responsibility of insurance coverage, degrees of fault and the severity of the accident damages toward a timely award after an accident has resulted in the untimely death of another person.

Wrongful death.

A wrongful death legal action can be filed in court when a person dies because of the negligent, reckless, or deliberate act of another.  Only certain people are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. The wrongful death statute specifically allows the following parties to bring a wrongful death claim:

  • the deceased person’s surviving spouse,
  • the deceased person’s domestic partner,
  • the deceased person’ s surviving children,
  • if there is no surviving person in the deceased person’s line of descent, then a wrongful death lawsuit may be brought by anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession”; that can include the deceased person’s parents, or the deceased person’s siblings, depending on who is living at the time of the deceased person’s death.

Recoverable damages in these lawsuits may include:

  • Medical bills and burial expenses,
  • Compensation for lost wages,
  • Compensation for pain and suffering,
  • Punitive damages that are intended to punish the person who caused the death.

The California Civil Code 3294 allows a jury to award punitive damages in a personal injury case, but the plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s conduct was intentionally harmful. A successful verdict in a criminal DUI action may impose severe penalties on a driver that include jail time, fines, penalties, loss of a driver’s license, ignition interlock device installation, and support a higher wrongful death damage award in civil cases related to the same accident.

Legal action after an accident.

A California accident victim can take steps to minimize additional stress by hiring a competent injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Jeffrey E. Estes, who will speak on their behalf in a courtroom, or take action against an insurance company’s legal team for a swift and fair monetary settlement.

Jeffrey E. Estes & Associates, a Professional Law Corporation

501 West Broadway, Suite 1650

San Diego, CA 92101

Phone: 619-233-8021

Fax: 619-233-3730


  1. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=VEH&sectionNum=23152
  2. https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/vehicle-registration/insurance-requirements/
  3. https://california.public.law/codes/ca_civ_code_section_3294
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