A wrongful death claim is a legal action that can be brought by certain surviving family members of a person who has died as a result of another person or entity’s negligence or wrongful conduct. It is a crucial step that families can take to get financial support. While no amount of compensation could ever truly be enough to make up for such a devastating loss, justice and accountability matter.
What types of damages can be recovered through a wrongful death claim in California? The short answer is that damages are divided into three broad categories: 1) Economic, 2) Non-economic, and 3) Punitive (limited cases). Here, our Stockton wrongful death lawyer provides a comprehensive guide to the damages that can be sought through a wrongful death claim in California.
What are Wrongful Death Damages?
Wrongful death damages are financial compensation awarded to the family or beneficiaries of someone who died as a result of another party’s negligence or misconduct. In California, the scope and amount of damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death claim are governed by Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI No. 3921). When a wrongful death claim goes to trial, it is the role of the jury to “decide how much money will reasonably compensate” the claimants. Damages in a wrongful death claim in California are broken up into two main categories and, in some cases, an additional third category:
- Economic Damages: Economic damages is a category of actual, tangible losses that a surviving family member sustained because of the decedent’s passing in an accident caused by negligence. California’s jury instructions for wrongful death claims lists the following examples of economic losses: 1) Financial support the decedent would have contributed, 2) Loss of gifts/benefits, 3) Funeral and burial expenses, and 4) Reasonable value of household services.
- Non-Economic Damages: The harm caused loss of a loved one is primarily not economic in nature. California allows surviving family members to seek non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim. California’s jury instructions for wrongful death claims lists the following examples of non-economic losses: 1) Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support, 2) Loss of enjoyment of sexual relations, and 3) Loss of training and guidance.
- Punitive Damages (Limited Cases): Although not granted in the majority of wrongful death claims, it may also be possible to recover compensation for punitive damages in California. Reserved for egregious cases, punitive damages are awarded to the surviving family but they are designed to punish the exceptionally bad conduct of the defendant(s). If you have any questions about punitive damages, a Stockton wrongful death lawyer can help.
A Stockton wrongful death lawyer can help surviving family members navigate the legal process and secure the compensation they deserve after the loss of a loved one. They can investigate the circumstances surrounding the death, gather evidence, and build a strong case on behalf of the family. A lawyer can also negotiate with insurance companies and handle any legal proceedings that may be necessary. Unfortunately, even in wrongful death cases, defendants and insurers try to resolve claims for less.
Compensation May Also Be Available Through a Survival Action Claim
Compensation for the loss of a loved one may also be available through a survival action claim in the state of California. A survival action claim is a legal claim that can be made by the personal representative of a deceased person’s estate, on behalf of the deceased person. This type of claim allows the estate to seek compensation for any damages that the deceased person would have been able to claim had they lived, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
To be clear, a survival action claim is a wholly separate cause of action from a wrongful death claim. A grieving family may be able to pursue both types of claims simultaneously in California. It is important to note that a survival action claim must be filed within a certain time frame, typically within two years of the date of death, so it is important to seek legal advice from a Stockton, CA wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible after a loved one has passed away.
Speak to Our Stockton, CA Wrongful Death Attorney Today
At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton wrongful death lawyers are compassionate, experienced, and justice-driven advocates for grieving families. If you have any specific questions about the types of damages that can be pursued in a wrongful death claim or a survival action claim, we are here to help. Contact us today for a free, completely private consultation. From our Stockton office, our firm handles wrongful death claims throughout the entirety of the San Joaquin Valley.