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California’s Wrongful Death Law Reform: Expanded Recovery Options for Families Pursuing a Survival Action Claim

In October of 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 447 into law. A reform to the state’s wrongful death claims process, the legislation expands the ability of eligible surviving family members to recover non-economic damages through a survival action claim. In this article, our Stockton wrongful death lawyer explains four of the most important things you should know about California SB 447. 

SB 447 Applies to Survival Action Claims 

In California, a wrongful death claim allows surviving family members to seek financial compensation for their economic damages (out-of-pocket medical bills, funeral/burial costs, etc) and non-economic damages (loss of love, loss of guidance, etc). 

A survival action claim allows eligible surviving family members to seek financial relief for the damages that the decedent would have been entitled to have they survived the accident. Survival action claims are often filed when a person survived the initial accident but succumbed to their injuries days, weeks, or months later.  

Prior California Law Limited Survival Action Claims to Economic Damages

Prior to SB 447 taking effect in California, families could only recover economic damages through a survival action claim. They could recover non-economic damages through a wrongful death claim, but the survival action portion of the case was limited to economic damages, such as property damages, lost wages, and medical bills. 

SB 447 Allows Family Members to Recover for Decedent’s ‘Pain and Suffering’

SB 447 reforms our state’s survival action claims process. It allows surviving family members to recover for non-economic damages. Most notably, this means that families can seek financial compensation for the pain and suffering that their loved ones endured between the moment that the accident occurred and their death. As an example, imagine that a Stockton man was severely injured in a car crash. Two weeks later he passed away. California’s new law (SB 447) allows his surviving family members to pursue compensation for the pain and suffering he endured during that two-week period. 

The Law is Scheduled to Last for Four Years (Can Be Renewed)

The reform to California’s survival action laws took effect on January 1st, 2022. Technically, this law was crafted to serve as a pilot program. The bill contains a ‘sunset provision’—meaning SB 447 will automatically expire at the beginning of 2026. However, the bill states that California lawmakers should study its effects before that time. If the law is working well, it can be renewed and made permanent. If not, then California could revert to the old system for non-economic damages. 

Call Our Stockton Wrongful Death Attorney for Immediate Help

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton wrongful death lawyer is a compassionate, experienced advocate for grieving families. If you have questions about California’s reformed survival action law, we are here to help you find the best legal solution.

Call us now or connect with us online for a free, strictly private consultation. We handle wrongful death lawsuits in Stockton, San Joaquin County, and throughout the surrounding area in the Central Valley of California.