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Can a victim’s family seek compensation from a drunk driver?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 30 people die every day in the United States in drunk-driving accidents, which equates to one death every 51 minutes. To say that drunk driving is a problem in our country would be an understatement because it's something that oftentimes leaves families and loved ones grieving and in search of justice.

Because of the pain and loss that often accompanies fatal drunk-driving accidents, some of our Oakland readers may be wondering whether a victim's family can seek compensation from an intoxicated driver. The answer is yes, but there are a few stipulations that need to be considered first. Let's take a look.

The first stipulation is that the person asserting a wrongful death claim must be a dependant of the deceased. This includes spouses or domestic partners and children. The next stipulation is that the claim must be filed within two years of the victim's death. If a wrongful death claim is filed after this timeframe has expired, compensation may not be sought.

The third stipulation involves the compensation that may be sought by the plaintiff. According to California law, a plaintiff may seek compensatory damages, which include actual costs associated with the victim's death such as medical bills, funeral and burial costs as well as expected lost income. Punitive damages may also be sought, not including pain, suffering or disfigurement. (Cal. Civ. Code § 377.34)

Because wrongful death lawsuits can only be filed by certain loved ones, within a certain period of time and for specific damages, a victim's family may want to speak to a skilled personal injury attorney about making a claim. With an attorney's help, family members can make an informed decision about whether or not to seek compensation from an intoxicated driver here in California.

Sources: California Civil Code, "Section 377.60," Accessed Sept. 23, 2015

California Civil Code, "Section 377.34," Accessed Sept. 23, 2015, "Statute of Limitations," Accessed Sept. 23, 2015

The Centers for Disease Control, "Impaired Driving: Get the Facts," Accessed Sept. 23, 2015

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