California statutes define the parties eligible to seek compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. These may include, but are not limited to, spouses, domestic partners and children. An estate may sue on behalf of beneficiaries, or surviving family members can file suit directly.
In all cases, the beneficiary or plaintiff must have had a financial dependency on the decedent.
An El Cerrito biotech scientist was killed in a bike accident on her way home from work. The 62-year-old victim routinely rode her bike back and forth from a dock where she caught a ferry. The bicycle accident took place at night, as a tractor-trailer was making a turn.
The 64-year-old truck driver did not notice immediately that his vehicle hit someone. The rig continued through traffic for two blocks with the bicycle caught beneath the truck, before the driver realized he'd had an accident and retraced the route.
The bicyclist died at the scene after she was knocked to the pavement.
Reports said police spoke to the truck driver but made no mention of citations or charges. Authorities contacted the scientist's roommate but could locate no next of kin.
As close as friends and colleagues may have been to a fatal traffic accident victim, they are not qualified under state law to request damages for the friend's wrongful death. Damages eligible plaintiffs may claim also are limited.
Compensation is awarded for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages may include the loss of projected income, benefits or services the decedent could have provided had he or she lived.
Depending on the plaintiff's relationship to the deceased, non-economic damages could include a loss of companionship or, in a minor child's case, the loss of a parent's guidance. The California wrongful death statute does not permit claims for plaintiffs' emotional distress or grief.
The assistance of a wrongful death attorney is imperative, since each case is unique.
Source: Oakland Tribune, "Friends mourn scientist killed by truck while riding bike in West Oakland" Harry Harris and Kristin J. Bender, Dec. 24, 201