Sister killed in car crash last year due to driver lack of experience...

by Sarah
(Hemet, California)

On October 29, 2015 my older sister, whom I lived and worked with, was killed by a driver who crossed into the next lane as my sister got out of the car, helping an injured kid into the car. He never slowed down and assumed the car was parked so he could pass, even though the car was stopped for over 15 mins.

He never slowed down and instantly hit and killed my sister on the spot. He claimed to be going 45 miles per hour, but the picture taken of his Toyota Tundra shows he was going much faster.

Since the accident I've had severe anxiety and depression. I'm unable to leave my house without having a panic attack. I had to quit my job due to the incident, and I have to see a counselor every week. I cannot drive because of my fear of cars.

I believe that the driver's insurance company is responsible for his lack of knowledge in basic driving skills. I am so emotionally damaged from this, my whole life has changed from this accident. The other party involved is currently suing for liability as well.

I'm wondering if I can sue also due to emotional damage and wrongful death of my sister, who was my best friend, roommate, and coworker. She was only 25. If the driver would of at least slowed down and wasn't speeding, my sister would probably still be here today.

What can I do about this? Is the insurance company liable for the driver's lack of knowledge which ultimately killed my sister? Any information or perspective you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Sister killed in car crash last year due to driver lack of experience...":

Sarah (Hemet, California):

Unfortunately, while your pain and suffering is real, California law does not permit persons, even relatives, to sue on their own behalf for emotional distress or mental anguish resulting from the wrongful death of a sibling. This is true, even if the siblings were very close, as you were with your sister.

Insurance companies can not be held liable for an insured's "lack of knowledge in basic driving skills." In this case, the insurance company wasn't driving the car which collided with your sister.

With or without insurance, under the same circumstances your sister would have been struck. As a result, there isn't an actionable legal link between the insurance company and the driver's apparent reckless driving.

It is difficult to understand how a photograph of the Toyota Tundra could have concluded the speed at which the driver was travelling at the time he struck your sister. However, in the event there is evidence the driver was at fault, a wrongful death claim could be brought on behalf of your sister.

Wrongful death claims can be brought against a person or entity which negligently or intentionally caused someone's death. A wrongful death claim is usually filed by a representative of the decedent's estate on behalf of surviving family members.

Wrongful death laws very from state to state. In the State of California, those entitled to bring a wrongful death claim are those who would be entitled to inherit from the deceased in the absence of a will (referred to as dying intestate), as well as the personal representative of the deceased’s estate.

If your sister had no surviving children or other relatives who would have inherited from her if she had died without a will, then you may be entitled to compensation as a sibling.

Read California's Wrongful Death Statute here.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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