Following a deadly charter bus accident in August 2016, Merced County district attorneys have brought multiple charges against the driver, Mario David Vasquez. A law enforcement investigation uncovered Vasquez was overly tired, talking on his cell phone, and violating multiple commercial regulations at the time of the crash, which led to four fatalities. Due to the evidence of Vasquez’s negligent actions while behind the wheel, he has been charged with four counts of vehicular manslaughter and five misdemeanor traffic violations.
While Vasquez faces criminal charges, he and his employer, Auto Buses Coordinados USA, could also face civil wrongful death suits based on his actions. If the families of those lost in the charter bus crash can prove the driver’s negligence, they may be able to obtain compensation for their losses.
California’s Wrongful Death Law
California statute 377.60 states that certain individuals can bring a claim for compensation following the wrongful death of a loved one. This type of action is available when a person was killed due to another individual’s careless, reckless, or willfully harmful conduct. To better understand when a wrongful death claim may arise, consider the rights the decedent would have had if he or she had lived. If the decedent was injured and had lived following the accident, then he or she would have been able to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault individual. Instead, since he or she passed away from the accident, the surviving family may have a right to move forward with a wrongful death claim following the decedent’s death.
To seek compensation during a wrongful death claim, the family member or estate must be able to prove the other party was negligent. In the situation involving Vazquez, there is a great deal of potential evidence, including
- His consistent use of a cell phone while driving
- His cell phone records suggest he slept too little before driving
- Evidence shows he violated hours of service regulations for commercial drivers
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in California?
Not everyone can file a wrongful death claim under California law. Surviving spouses, children, and parents may have the right to file a claim. Also, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate has the power to move forward with this legal action. However, more distant relatives like siblings, cousins, and grandparents usually cannot file wrongful death claims.
Compensation Through a Wrongful Death Claim
If a family member or the personal representative of the decedent’s estate decides to move forward with a wrongful death claim, then he or she can seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Loss of financial contributions
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of companionship, love, and affection
- Loss of services
The entire damages collected through the wrongful death claim will be divided among the decedent’s legal heirs in the way described by law.
Contact Our California Wrongful Death Lawyers for Help
If you lost a loved one in a car or bus accident, do not waste time learning about your rights. If your loss was the result of another person’s negligence, then you or your loved one’s estate may be able to move forward with a wrongful death claim. This suit will not change the situation or bring your loved one back. However, it can help you financially and offer a small amount of justice.
Contact Brod Law Firm today at (800) 427-7020 to schedule a free consultation.
(image courtesy of Filippo Ascione)