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What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Case in California?

A wrongful death claim is an opportunity for surviving family members to seek reimbursement for their economic and noneconomic losses after the wrongful death of a loved one due to negligence. If someone is at fault for the death, that person or party should have to pay for the victim’s losses. In a fatal accident, surviving dependents may also qualify for damages. While each case is unique, all can qualify for the same types of damages in California.

Funeral and Burial Expenses

The courts will allow a family to seek restitution for funeral and burial expenses, of a reasonable amount. A reasonable amount may be from $7,000 to $10,000 depending on the specific case. The family may need to provide receipts, bills, or other proof of funeral and burial expenses to support the amount sought.

Lost Past and Future Earnings

When a loved one dies unexpectedly, it can throw the household into financial duress. Anyone who was financially dependent on the individual could qualify for lost wage replacement during a wrongful death claim. The courts may award compensation for the exact amount of lost wages from the date of the accident to the date of death, as well as the estimated amount of future income, benefits, and earning opportunities the deceased person likely would have made in his or her lifetime had the accident not happened. Surviving children may also seek compensation for lost inheritance.

Outstanding Medical Costs

If the deceased person’s family covered the costs of the decedent’s medical care after an accident, the family could seek compensation for these expenses. All past and outstanding medical bills related to the individual’s end-of-life care could be the defendant’s responsibility to pay on behalf of the family.

Lost Household Support

It is possible to calculate a monetary amount for the value of the deceased person’s contributions to the household. This can include childcare, chores, housework, cooking, landscaping, home improvements, and everyday tasks. This amount will depend on the amount and quality of household work the deceased person performed.

Loss of Emotional Support

The California courts permit surviving family members to demand compensation for intangible losses as well as tangible ones. These losses can include the value of the deceased person’s love, care, companionship, parental guidance, company, affection, encouragement, attention, moral support, loss of consortium by a spouse, and more. The types and value of these damages will depend on the relationship between the decedent and plaintiff, as well as factors such as a child’s age.

Mental Anguish

A family in California could also seek recovery for the mental and emotional damages they suffered as a result of the loved one’s death. The law may entitle any dependent the death affected to demand payment for emotional pain and suffering, distress, mental anguish, grief, and psychological trauma.

Survival Action Damages

There are two different types of claims available after a negligence-related death: wrongful death and survival claims. A wrongful death claim deals with compensation for surviving family members, while a survival action looks at the damages the deceased individual suffered. A survival action could result in payment to the deceased person’s estate for a range of damages.

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical costs
  • Lost wages
  • Property damages

A representative of the estate may be able to file a survival action, while a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or child can file a wrongful death claim.