Accident Overview

In the Spring of 2015, our client’s husband was driving his van at 55 mph, in a 55 mph zone, in a rural county in California, when a drunk driver traveling faster than 65 mph hit him head-on, causing a serious car accident. The accident resulted in significant damage to his vehicle, and multiple catastrophic injuries which, after a brief interval of time, caused his death, leaving behind his wife and two minor daughters. His wife contacted our firm to represent the family in his accident.

About the Accident

This was a two-vehicle accident that resulted in the death of our clients’ husband and father due to the other driver’s negligence and intoxication. The driver of the car who caused the accident, who was operating a truck, was intoxicated twice beyond the legal limit, after consuming both alcohol and prescription medications that affected the ability to drive. The driver had a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.15%. This was her second DUI offense. The driver was also speeding, 10 mph above the speed limit.

There were no adverse road conditions, as it was a clear night; and the accident happened when the driver blacked out, left her lane and entered oncoming traffic, striking our client’s van head-on.

Immediately following the collision, our client’s husband suffered fatal injuries as a direct result of the car accident. He was pronounced dead on arrival by the paramedics who responded to the accident a few minutes later.

The at-fault vehicle had insurance; while our client’s husband had recently purchased the van, he had not yet acquired insurance at the time of the accident.

Wrongful Death Case Details

The decedent’s family (his surviving wife, daughter and step-daughter) sought compensation for the loss of his love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support, called “non-economic damages,” to which they were entitled to as his successor in interest and heirs.

His family lost a loving husband and father, a man who would no longer be able to provide his love and support, guidance and training to his two minor daughters and to his wife. Based on this information, his wife reached out to GJEL Accident Attorneys to see if she was entitled to compensation and to have her questions answered. She wanted to know:

● Who is responsible for my husband’s death?
● How will I pay for the funeral expenses?
● What can I do to compensate for the loss of my husband’s life?
● Can I recover damages even though my husband was in school and had no wage loss?
● Can my daughter, my husband’s step-daughter, be compensated for her loss?

The staff at GJEL was able to quickly evaluate the case over the phone and send an investigator to meet her at her home in rural California.

In light of the tragic loss of life from this accident, the surviving family decided to retain GJEL Accident Attorneys to help get their lives back on track after this tragic accident.

The staff at GJEL started a full investigation which began with obtaining the police report from the California Highway Patrol. The police report showed that the other driver was 100% at fault and responsible for the accident. However, the drunk driver had borrowed the truck at the time of the accident, and there was an issue as to whether she was a “permissive user” who would be covered under the insurance policy that insured the truck, which was a farm vehicle owned by a nearby farm.

Initially, the insurance company covering the vehicle at-fault for the accident denied responsibility for the extent of damages caused by this wrongdoer. The insurance company and the defense attorneys hired for the farm and the driver also claimed that there were no economic damages, such as medical bills, wage loss and earnings, since our client’s husband was a student at the time of his death and had a limited past earnings history. The defendants also argued that the extent of non-economic damages was small, in any event, based on the nature of the relationship existing among our clients’ family. The defense also argued that the farm and farmer were not negligent since they were unaware that the truck was being used, or that the driver had been drinking. Finally, they contended that the defendant driver had not in fact been drinking, but rather was taking legally prescribed medicine for a recent surgery that caused her to be in a confused, unaware state.

GJEL filed a lawsuit against the corporation that owned the truck, the farm, the farm’s owner, and the driver of the truck who caused this accident and death. The firm retained leading experts in the fields of alcohol intoxication, forensic psychology, accident reconstruction and bio-mechanical engineering. Numerous depositions were taken and the case proceeded to trial. In the second week of trial, the defendants, through their insurance company, finally agreed to meet the plaintiffs’ demand, and settled with our clients, paying them a several million dollar sum.

Attorney Luke Ellis of GJEL personally took all the depositions, attended multiple mediation sessions and tried the case, helping our clients through this most difficult time — and ultimately getting the wrongdoers to justly compensate the family’s loss. Mr. Ellis proceeded to trial, seeking only non-economic damages for the loss of love, companionship, comfort and the like. This case took less than two years to conclude, having been brought before a judge and jury in a civil trial in that rural county. In the end, our clients obtained several million dollars in compensation for this accident from the insurance company and the defendants, after Mr. Ellis’s aggressive representation. The result was one of largest amounts ever obtained in that rural county’s history for a personal injury or a wrongful death case.

Case Facts:

Police Report
Drunk Driving
Prescription Drugs/Medicine and Alcohol
Several million dollars

What is the average settlement after getting hit by a drunk driver?

The average settlement amount for a drunk driving accident can vary greatly, depending on factors such as the severity of the injuries sustained, the amount of property damage, and the amount of insurance coverage available. On average, the more severe the injuries and the more extensive the property damage, the higher the settlement. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average settlement amount for a drunk driving accident in 2018 was $100,000. Meanwhile, the average settlement for a drunk driving accident that resulted in a fatality was $300,000 in the same year. These numbers serve as a rough estimate and do not guarantee a similar outcome in every case.

How are settlements reached after getting hit by a drunk driver?

When two parties have a disagreement, there are different ways to resolve it. Three common methods are mediation, arbitration, and going to court. Mediation involves a neutral person, called a mediator, helping both parties find an agreement that works for everyone. It’s a voluntary process.

Author Photo

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Since 1972 he has been helping seriously injured victims throughout northern California fight & win their personal injury cases. Andy is one of the top awarded & recognized wrongful death lawyers in northern California.