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What Damages Can You Recover in a Wrongful Death Case?

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Wrongful death cases arise anytime somebody loses a loved one due to the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of somebody else. Losing a loved one is incredibly difficult, and family members are often left wondering what steps to take moving forward. Wrongful death claims are a way for grieving family members to gain some closure and receive compensation from the alleged negligent party. Here, we want to discuss the various types of damages that could be recovered by surviving family members in these cases.

What compensation is available in a California wrongful death case?

Wrongful death damages are intended to provide compensation to the heirs of the deceased for the value of what they could have reasonably expected to receive should their love one not passed away. These damages can include both economic and non-economic losses.

Economic damages

Economic damages in a California wrongful death case can include:

  • The financial support the deceased would have provided to the family during their lifetime
  • The reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided during their lifetime
  • The loss of gifts for benefits heirs could have expected to receive from the deceased during their lifetime
  • Funeral and burial expenses

There is no limit to the amount of economic damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death claim in this state.

Non-economic damages

Non-economic damages in a California wrongful death case revolve around providing compensation for the loss of the deceased’s:

  • Protection
  • Moral support
  • Affection
  • Society and companionship
  • Training and guidance
  • Sexual relations

There is no set amount of non-economic damages that are awarded in a wrongful death claim in this state. A jury is allowed to award any amount that is reasonable based on the evidence provided. It should be noted that, in California, non-economic damages cannot include compensation for the heirs’ pain and suffering or sorrow caused by the loss of their loved one.

Is a survival action the same thing?

In California, wrongful death lawsuits and survival actions are two different claims, though they are often combined together. Wrongful death claims are designed to compensate a deceased’s surviving family members for their losses. However, a survival action is designed to compensate the deceased person’s estate for the following:

  • Claims unrelated to the death for which the deceased would have had the right to sue for at the time of their death.
  • Claims for the injury that caused the death, so long as the deceased survived those injuries for some period of time after they occurred.

Survival actions are complicated in California, but they can include punitive damages, which are not available in a wrongful death claim.

Is there a time limit for wrongful death claims in California?

Family members in California need to be aware that there is a time limit in place for them to file these claims against the alleged negligent party. The wrongful death statute of limitations in this state is two years from the date of death. This means that family members or the estate of the deceased have a two-year window with which to file a wrongful death claim in California. Failing to file a claim within this statutory timeframe will likely result in the family members or the estate being unable to recover any compensation for the loss.

If your loved one has passed away due to another’s negligence, contact us today to speak with an Orange County wrongful death attorney.

Covid 19 Update: We are accepting new cases and we handle everything electronically and remotely, so our clients never have to leave their homes.