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Recovering damages from a negligent driver who is deceased

A recent wrong-way car crash on Highway 126 just west of Ventura County raises a significant question about recovering damages from a negligent driver who was killed in the collision. The answer depends upon two California statutes and the existence of automobile liability insurance.

In the auto accident in question, a man from Los Angeles was driving his Kia west in the eastbound lanes of Highway 126. His car collided head-on with a Toyota Camry carrying two residents of Fillmore. All three persons were killed in the accident. The driver of the Kia is presumably negligent because he was unquestionably driving in the wrong lane, but can the family of the victims in the Camry recover damages?

The answer is "yes." Assuming that the lawsuit is started before the applicable statute of limitation expires, California law allow a claim for damages to be brought against the estate of a deceased based upon the deceased' negligence. Just as in a case against a living defendant, the plaintiff's representative must prove all of the elements of a claim based upon negligence. The fact that California drivers are required to carry automobile liability insurance means that the passengers in the Camry can recover damages from the dead driver's insurer - if they can establish that the driver's negligence caused the accident.

The success of a case against a decedent's estate or insurer depends upon representation by a competent lawyer. Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in an automobile accident caused by a driver who died in the accident may wish to consult a lawyer who specializes in such cases. A knowledge attorney can provide an assessment of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income, loss of companionship and pain and suffering.

Source: California Code of Civil Procedure, Article 4, Cause of Action Against Decedent [377.40 - 377.43], accessed on June 18, 2016

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