Fatal DUI Accident Lawsuits in California

Posted on

Drunk driving is deadly. There were 949 drunk driving deaths in California in 2019 alone. The number comprised 9.3% of DUI deaths nationwide. (Responsibility.org, National Drunk Driving Statistics Map).

In 2020, alcohol impairment was a factor in 30% of all traffic deaths in the United States. With only 1.2% of adults admitting to driving impaired in a 30-day period, the extent to which alcohol impairment contributes to traffic deaths is staggering. (CDC, Impaired Driving: Get the Facts).

The families that are left behind wonder how to get justice. They worry about the future and how to get fair compensation for what has happened.

We are an experienced team handling fatal DUI accident lawsuits in California. If you have lost a loved one, we invite you to contact us for a confidential consultation with our understanding professionals.

Fatal DUI Accident Facts

  • A fatal DUI accident is a type of wrongful death
  • Family members may claim financial compensation, they must initiate a legal claim
  • They may bring a case whether or not there are criminal charges
  • Even if the defendant is found not guilty on criminal charges, there may still be a claim for compensation
  • You don’t have to wait for the state to authorize a fatal DUI accident lawsuit in California. The family members of the victim may initiate their claim
  • They may have representation from a DUI accident lawyer throughout their case
  • Bringing a claim focuses on justice for the victim and their family
  • Filing a legal claim does not stall or stop criminal charges

The state may file criminal charges against a drunk driver who causes a fatality. However, a criminal charge alone is far from adequate to bring justice for the victim and their family.

The purpose of a fatal DUI accident lawsuit is twofold:

  1. It creates accountability for the defendant. They must answer for their actions. The family can pursue a finding of fault and responsibility, getting answers in the process.
  2. It allows the victim’s family to pursue fair compensation. With a finding of legal responsibility, the defendant is required to pay damages.

If you have lost a loved one to a senseless DUI accident, we are truly sorry. Our law firm can help you use the legal process to get justice. We are proud to help members of our community when you need us the most. Contact us now to learn more about how we can help.

Elements to proving a fatal DUI accident claim

To prove a fatal DUI accident claim, the plaintiff provides evidence of the following:

  • The driver was over the legal limit or under the influence of alcohol
  • A crash occurred
  • The driver caused the crash because of their alcohol consumption or a driving error that resulted from their alcohol consumption
  • The victim lost their life because of the crash
  • Value of the appropriate amount of compensation due under the law

Our lawyers look at all opportunities to pursue the compensation that you may deserve. We investigate and build each element of your claim.

Possible Charges in Fatal DUI Accidents

Drunk driving is against the law in California. When drunk driving results in death, the offender may face enhanced charges. Possible criminal charges that may be authorized in a fatal DUI accident are:

California Penal Code § 191.5(a) – Homicide – Gross vehicular manslaughter – Unlawful killing of a person while driving a vehicle, where drunk driving was a proximate cause or caused gross negligence that might produce death. The penalty is four, six, or 10 years in prison.

California Penal Code § 191.5(b) – Homicide – Vehicular manslaughter – Unlawful killing of a human being where drunk driving was the proximate cause of the death or an unlawful act that might produce death but without gross negligence. An offense may be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year of incarceration, or a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

California Penal Code § 191.5(c) – Homicide – Gross vehicular manslaughter with a prior DUI – If a person violates § 191.5(a), and they have a prior drunk driving conviction, they may be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

California Penal Code § 188 – Murder – A killing that results from an intentional act with express or implied malice. Penalties may include 15 years to life in prison. A prior DUI conviction is not required.

In addition, the person may be charged with any other traffic offenses or criminal violations that occurred.

Can you get charged with murder in California for DUI causing death?

Yes. In People v. Watson, 30 Cal.3d 290 (1981), the California courts upheld a charge of second degree murder for a drunk driving offense where death occurred.

In the Watson case, a person consumed large amounts of alcohol at a bar. Then, they drove through a red light nearly causing a collision. At the next intersection, they struck a vehicle killing the driver and her six-year-old daughter. Evidence showed the defendant was going about 70 miles per hour or double the speed limit.

Lawyers helping family of fatal DUI crash victims

Hopefully, for each DUI fatality victim, the drunk driver will face the appropriate criminal charges and penalties for their actions. But unfortunately, the focus of criminal charges is not on the victim’s family or compensation. There may be nominal payment of immediate financial expenses, but comprehensive compensation is not addressed. In a DUI lawsuit, the case focuses ultimately on the defendant’s liability for the death and the damages that are due to the victim’s family.

There may be insurance policies and additional parties responsible to pay compensation. The burden of proof is lower in a DUI civil lawsuit than it is in a criminal case. The victim, through their lawyer, controls their actions in the litigation including demanding discovery, conducting depositions and filing court motions.

Our law firm offers full-service representation for families that are grieving the loss of a loved one because of a DUI accident. Let us help you investigate, determine legal fault and pursue justice for your entire family.

Lawyer for DUI Wrongful Death Lawsuits

When you need an attorney for a DUI wrongful death lawsuit in California, Sargent Law Firm Injury Lawyers is here to help. It is our goal to understand your situation and pursue your legal interests. The ultimate goal is for you to receive justice and the financial compensation that can help your family following this tragic loss. Contact us for a consultation about your case.

Our Locations


2424 Vista Way #102
Oceanside, CA 92054


140 N Escondido Blvd
Escondido, CA 92025


27247 Madison Ave #200
Temecula, CA 92590


41197 Golden Gate Circle, Suite 108
Murrieta, CA 92562

Coeur d'Alene

1450 Northwest Blvd Suite 104
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814

It’s free to speak with us and learn the value of your case today.

Available 24/7

or Use the Form Below to Get Started:

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
100% Confidential