Losing a loved one is devastating. When a family member is tragically killed in a preventable accident, California Law allows for compensation to the victim's heirs through a wrongful death claim. California Law also allows the estate of the deceased to pursue a claim known as a "survival action".
Who can present these claims is a limited list of people. California statutes proscribe the types of relatives who can pursue a wrongful death claim and may include the surviving spouse, children, and/or other close relatives and dependents. A survival action can be brought on behalf of the decedent's estate by a personal representative and/or the successor in interest of the estate.
When considering filing a wrongful death claim, it is important to know what types of losses are compensable. Compensation for a wrongful death claim can be obtained for economic losses such as financial support, benefits and household services, as well as for non-economic intangible losses, such as the loss of the decedent's love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support. Also compensable is the loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations with the decedent, and also the loss of the decedent's training and guidance. In contrast, the decedent's survivors cannot be compensated for their grief, sorrow, or mental anguish.
Compensation for the estate's survival claim can be obtained for economic losses, such as medical bills and funeral and burial expenses. For cases filed since January 1, 2022, the California legislature has expanded the law to include recovery for the decedent's pre-death pain and suffering and disfigurement, also known in legalese as "non-economic" damages. California now joins 45 other states that allow such compensation. This change is found in the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.34, and it is a seismic change in California law because non-economic damages are usually the largest part of any claim.
It is important to note that no fixed standard exists for deciding the amount of noneconomic damages. A jury is instructed that it must use its collective judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and the jurors' common sense.
Wrongful death and survivor claims involve many unique and sometimes complex issues. It is always a good idea to consult an attorney who is experienced in handling these claims. Kohn Law Office provides free consultation on injury and wrongful death claims, and all cases are handled on a contingency basis where there is no fee unless there is a recovery. If you have any questions, we would love to help, so please call us at 760-721-8182.