A wrongful death claim seeks to recover for the losses the dependents of a deceased person (called the decedent) suffered after he or she died. These individuals may be able to obtain economic and non-economic damages, including:
Funeral and burial expenses,
The decedent’s earnings if he or she had lived to a full life expectancy,
Surviving family members’ loss of financial support, and
Surviving family members’ loss of companionship, guidance, and more.
Punitive damages, which seek to punish the negligent party for particularly heinous actions, cannot be obtained in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Proving Economic and Non-Economic Damages
Under California statute, wrongful death actions differ in the damages recoverable by the plaintiff. As a result, only those damages named are recoverable. For example, a plaintiff cannot recover for the victim’s pain and suffering. Rather, the plaintiff might recover funeral expenses as well as for a loss of intimacy, affection, companionship and more resulting from the loved one’s death.
An experienced wrongful death attorney will consider the following factors when determining how much to seek in economic damages:
The financial support that the decedent (meaning the person who died) would have contributed to the plaintiff during his or her life,
Other gifts or benefits the decedent would have provided the plaintiff,
Funeral and burial expenses, and/or
The value of household services that the decedent would have provided.
To quantify these factors, the attorney will first need to calculate a decedent’s life expectancy.
Under California wrongful death law, there is no standard to determine an amount to seek in non-economic damages. The attorney will consider these factors when determining how much to seek in non-economic damages:
The plaintiff’s loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, protection, affection, moral support, and more,
Loss of intimacy (if the surviving spouse is bringing the lawsuit), and/or
Loss of the decedent’s training and guidance.
The damages recoverable in a survivorship lawsuit differ from those in a wrongful death suit. A representative seeks to recover on behalf of the decedent for losses he or she suffered before death. These damages might be medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Punitive damages can also be alleged if the facts support it.
Getting Help from an Experienced Law Firm
If you lost a loved one due to another person’s actions, our knowledgeable attorneys can help. Contact CaseyGerry to schedule a confidential consultation. An experienced wrongful death attorney will explain the next steps and what you can expect. You can reach our office at 619-238-1811.