Available Damages in a Wrongful Death Case
What Damages Are Available in a California Wrongful Death Case?
In a California wrongful death case, a claim arises when one person dies because of the wrongful act or negligence of another. For example, when a loved one loses their life in a car accident that is caused by the recklessness of another driver, it is possible to file a lawsuit against that driver.
In this manner, it is a civil lawsuit that is brought directly by the survivors of a deceased person. The purpose of the wrongful death claim is to enable you to hold the at-fault individual or organization responsible for the death of your loved one. This is because deaths like these are often significant life events that have severe financial implications for the survivor.
At West Coast Trial Lawyers, our wrongful death attorneys understand the difficulty that often attends the death of a loved one. This is one of the reasons why we ensure that we fight for fair compensation on behalf of our clients. In this manner, we have helped clients just like you get compensation.
Below, our attorneys will discuss how the law enables you to get financial compensation after the wrongful death of a loved one. We will explain the rationale behind this provision and what kind of compensation you can recover in a California wrongful death case.
Wrongful Death Cases in California
The death of a loved one is a generally difficult affair. It is an event that can mean many things for those that are the surviving family members of the deceased. Apart from being a difficult emotional event to deal with, it will also often constitute a significant financial event in one’s life.
Such events are so momentous that they have been known to force many people into severe financial difficulty. This is often due to many expenses, which include funeral expenses, medical expenses, and other out-of-pocket expenses. It will be even more difficult to cope with the loss of a loved one if the victim was a major source of financial support for the family before they passed away.
According to this study, the death of a loved one and the medical costs that accompany such an event, is one of the foremost causes of bankruptcy for American citizens. This goes to show the difficulty that can attend such a death.
The California wrongful death statutes were enacted to ensure that survivors of a wrongful death victim are able to sue and claim fair compensation. By virtue of the statute, you would be entitled to compensation once you show that the death was wrongfully caused by another person.
Although the process of obtaining this compensation can often be difficult, a qualified wrongful death lawyer can help you assert the facts that will get you fair compensation.
Obtainable Damages in a California Wrongful Death Case
The compensation you can recover for the death of a loved one is also referred to as damages. You would usually have to legally prove that the other party is responsible for the death before you can be entitled to damages.
There are many types of compensation you can recover once you successfully prove your case. These include recovery of medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and out-of-pocket expenses.
Although the variety of compensation you can recover is varied, they will either fall within damages for economic or non-economic loss. Another possible head of compensation is that of punitive damages. We will explain all of these below.
Damages for Economic Loss
Economic damages refers to the category of loss that is quantifiable. It is a loss that you can calculate in monetary terms. For instance, if you spent $4,000 on burial and funeral expenses, that is a loss that has clear money value.
In order to show that you are entitled to this category of compensation, you would often be required to provide proof of your economic loss. A few ways that you can show this loss is by providing receipts, invoices, and other evidence for expenses you have incurred.
It is however important to note that these expenses must be connected to the wrongful death of your loved one. If you are not sure of what expenses you can claim as compensation, your wrongful death lawyer will thoroughly explain what you can recover.
Although most states place limits on the amount of compensation obtainable for economic loss, no such limit exists in California. Under this category of loss, there are several heads of compensation that you could be entitled to.
Available compensation includes the following:
- Medical expenses incurred as a result of the injury and wrongful death.
- The loss of household support. This loss would particularly arise if your loved one contributed significantly to household finances.
- Economic financial losses. This includes the loss of gifts or benefits you would have expected to receive from your deceased loved one.
- Loss of financial support. You can also obtain compensation for loss, such as the cost of house mortgage payments or of a child’s or spouse’s college education.
- Burial and funeral expenses. You will receive compensation for the costs of holding a funeral service and burial of your loved one.
Damages for Non-Economic Loss
Non-economic damages is the opposite of economic damages. It is loss that is not easily quantifiable. It is often difficult to fully assess the value of non-economic loss because it is not ordinarily considered in money terms.
For example, the death of a loved one means you lose their love, care, and companionship. While this is clearly a loss, it is difficult to quantify what it is worth to you in money value.
While there is, of course, no amount of money that can replace the loved one you have lost, it is possible to ascribe a monetary value to that loss for purposes of compensation. This is what is usually done for non-economic damages.
In the state of California, a cap exists on the amount you can recover for non-economic damages in medical malpractice that leads to a wrongful death case. Under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975, you cannot recover more than $250,000 for non-economic loss.
It is important to note that you cannot sue for or recover compensation for pain and suffering, either for yourself or your loved one, in a wrongful death case. It is only permitted to sue for pain and suffering in a survival action. The amount of compensation you can recover under this non-economic loss include the following:
- Loss of moral support
- Loss of marital relations by a spouse
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of training or guidance
- A parent’s or sibling’s emotional distress from witnessing the incident that took the life of the wrongful death victim
The purpose of this category of compensation is to punish the defendant for their wrongful act that led to the death of the deceased. It often arises in cases where the actions of the defendant were intentional, reckless, wanton, or malicious.
In any of these instances, the court would award a money sum against the defendant. Your wrongful death lawyer will advise you as to what circumstances will warrant a request for punitive damages.
West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help
If your loved one has been wrongfully killed by the reckless, negligent, or intentional action of another person, you could have a wrongful death claim. It is important that you contact a lawyer immediately after the incident. Your lawyer can listen to the facts of your case and advise you as to what steps you need to take.
At West Coast Trial Lawyers, our expert wrongful death attorneys will help you get the compensation you deserve for your losses, which includes medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Contact us today at (213) 927-3700 or email [email protected] to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable legal team.