A horrible tragedy happened in Martinez on Monday afternoon (March 23, 2015). A gravel trailer tipped over and crushed a 32-year-old woman sitting inside her car. The victim was pregnant. This unfortunate soul is completely blameless; she was directed by a construction worker to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Adding to the horror, the victim’s 4-year-old daughter witnessed it.
A newscaster referred to the incident as a “freak accident,” but the lawyers in our firm know, from decades of experience, that a mishap like this only occurs when important safety rules are violated. A number of safety regulations, policies and regulations govern the handling of loads of rock, gravel, and other heavy objects. These safety rules are intending to prevent spills, tipovers and other mishaps that can cause death and serious injuries. We have handled many cases involving similar accidents, and violations of common sense safety rules are aways a cause.
The victim’s family will be entitled to monetary compensation. There are a number of potential responsible parties: the construction company, the subcontractor, and the City of Martinez. Under California law, family members with legal standing to bring a lawsuit may seek and recover monetary compensation for the loss of the decedant’s love, comfort, society, companionship, care, support and guidance.
California law prohibits grieving family members from recovering for the emotional distress they experience as a result of the death of a loved one, or for any suffering that the decedent experienced before she died. However, an exception may apply for the young daughter: a person who witnesses a close family member get injured or killed due to the negligence of another may bring a claim for “negligent infliction of emotional distress.”
An immediate and thorough investigation should be undertaken on behalf of the family before the evidence is lost or destroyed, and before the witnesses’ recollection of the event starts to fade.
If the evidence shows that the construction company or subcontractor acted with reckless indifference to the health and safety of the public, then the family may be entitled to seek punitive damages in addition to the money needed to compensate them for their loss.
The news story reports that the victim had a fiance. His loss is painful to even think about, but under California law he may not have legal standing to bring a lawsuit for the wrongful death of his fiancee. He is reported to be the father of the surviving daughter, and so he would likely be appointed by the court as her guardian in the daughter’s lawsuit and his role would be to protect the child’s interests.