How Much Is A Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?

Losing a loved one is hard especially if it’s because of the reckless behavior of another person.

California’s Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) allows the decedent’s personal representative on behalf of the family members and relatives to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

A wrongful death means an individual dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another. It may be due to negligence-based incidents like car accidents, medical malpractice, and intentional acts. The people who may assert the cause of action for the death of another may file a suit to recover damages.

It is impossible to state a specific amount nor an average figure for a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death settlements average at $500,000. Some settlement awards have gone for $5 million and even more. 

Survivors in the state of California can bring a wrongful death action for any type of claim based on the following:

  • Negligence
  • Gross negligence
  • Recklessness or an intentional wrongful act
  • Car accidents (including being hit by a DUI driver)
  • Pedestrian “knock-downs”
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Drowning
  • Assault and battery
  • Murder or manslaughter
  • Elder abuse or neglect
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Medical malpractice

In California, you need to prove that the death of your loved ones was indeed wrongful. In order to prove a death was wrongful, you must have sufficient evidence to establish the case and that the death occurred due to the negligent acts of someone else.

However, you do not have to prove wrongful death beyond a reasonable doubt, preponderance of evidence is already sufficient.

Who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit? Under 377.60(a) of CCP, the following may assert their claim due to wrongful death:

  • Surviving spouses or registered domestic partners

If the deceased person was legally married at the time of their death, the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner will have the primary right to file a wrongful death claim. However, the surviving spouse may be denied the right to prosecute the case by the court if they are deemed not legally competent. The party may also choose to waive their right of priority.

  • Decedent’s surviving children

If there is no surviving spouse, the surviving children of the decedent can file a lawsuit. The children in this term means the biological children, fully adopted children, and stepchildren. If the children are minors, the court will appoint a guardian to file and pursue a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Grandchildren may also file a suit if the decedent’s children are deceased.

  • If the decedent leaves no surviving issue, then the intestate succession would entitle the persons including the spouse to their property.

In addition to the above-identified individuals, the following people can also bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California if they can prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased:

  • Decedent’s putative spouse
  • Children of the decedent’s putative spouse
  • Deceased person’s stepchildren
  • Deceased person’s parents
  • Legal guardians of the decedent, if the parents are deceased.

In wrongful death cases, the court orders the defendant to pay the damages to the decedent’s survivors. Damages are the plaintiff’s claimed losses in a personal injury case. The scope of damages are often discussed and based on California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI). 

wrongful death lawsuit

Economic and Non-Economic Damages

Under CACI 3921, damages in a wrongful death case fall into two categories: economic and non-economic damages 

Economic Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Economic damages are based on injuries with clearly determinable values. It can include:

  • Financial support the decedent would have contributed to the family 
  • Loss of gifts or benefits that the family/family member would have expected to receive from the decedent
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Reasonable dollar value of household services that the decedent would have provided.

Non-Economic Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Non-economic damages are awarded based on injuries which are, by their very nature, Juries are free to award as much or as little of a noneconomic damage as they wish. There is no standard for determining the value of these damages. The CACI no. 3921 provides the following:

  • Loss of the decedent’s “love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support”
  • the spouse or partner’s loss of the enjoyment of intimacy with the decedent, and
  • Loss of the decedent’s guidance.

Wrongful Death vs. Survival Action Claims

Meanwhile, Wrongful Death lawsuits are often interchanged with Survival Action

Wrongful Death lawsuits compensate the victim’s family for the family’s losses. On the other hand, Survival actions allow both heirs and successors in interest to sue on behalf of the victim’s estate. 

A “Survival” claim under California Code of Civil Procedure 377.30 could entitle a family to punitive damages if their loved one dies wrongfully. It differs from wrongful death damages in that it does not require the death to have been caused by another’s negligence, but only that the death was caused by someone other than the decedent. In order for a “Survival” claim to succeed, the claimant must show that the decedent would have had a cause of action for damages had they lived.

The survival suit provides two principal forms of compensation:

  1. Money for legal rights unrelated to the death, but for which the victim had the right to sue when he or she perished;
  2. Amounts that account for the injury that caused the death, provided that the victim at least briefly survived his or her injuries.

Meanwhile, you should remember that wrongful death claims must be filed within two years or it shall be forfeited. If the case is not filed within the time set, the family will lose their capacity to sue regarding the decedent’s death.

Call Farahi Law Firm To Help You

In Farahi Law Firm, our team will assist you, so you can claim the maximum offer due to the wrongful death of your loved ones. Our personal injury team will explain to you all the process and even the most common type of accidents, to the importance of traffic reconstruction in an injury claim and many more.

Do not allow yourselves to be tricked by insurance companies to accept low-ball settlement offers. We, at FLF, have been awarded as the Best Law Firm in California. You can count on us to help you and to aggressively fight for you.

Call us and we will make sure that you get the justice and compensation that you deserve. 

We are available 24/7. We speak English and Spanish. 

Get a free consultation.