What damages can a family sue for in a wrongful death case?
When a tragedy strikes and this results in a wrongful death, damages are often awarded based on certain legal criteria. The money that would reasonably compensate the plaintiff for the loss of their loved one is called ‘damages’. This article will go into the details of just what those damages are and what you can expect to be awarded.
What damages can be claimed?
California law does not require that the plaintiff prove the exact amount of the damages, but the judge cannot speculate or guess when the damages are being awarded. This means that damages are carefully examined when a case is considered.
Generally wrongful death damages fall into a few categories:
- The first is “the financial support, if any, that the deceased would have contributed to the family during either the life expectancy that they had before their death or the life expectancy of the plaintiff, whichever is shorter.” This could include wages or money from investments that they would have received had the wrongful death not occurred.
- The second is “the loss of gifts or benefit that the plaintiff would have expected to receive from the deceased”. This means that it could include things like child support, or other kinds of gifts or benefits.
- The third is funeral and burial expenses.
- The fourth is “the reasonable value of household services that the deceased would have provided.” This means that if you relied on the deceased to perform certain household services like mowing the lawn, and now you have to hire somebody to do that, you are entitled for damages for that.
The award of these future damages are not adjusted for future inflation, but are awarded in present cash value.
There are also a number of noneconomic damages that the plaintiff can claim. These have to do with less tangible aspects of life that the loss of the deceased will cause to have a great impact on your life. These include:
- The loss of the “love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support”
- The loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations.
- The loss of their training and guidance.
These factors are important to consider as the loss extends not just to the economic sphere of life but into every aspect of what life without that person will be like. While it is hard to truly estimate what the loss of the individual will have on your life, it is necessary to take a good look at what potential damages you may be entitled to. There is no fixed standard as to what these noneconomic damages could look like, and the judge must use their judgement to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence presented and their common sense. This is where it is important for you to do the work to show the actual impact the loss has had on your life beyond the economic sphere.
What is not considered in awarding wrongful death damages?
There are somethings that are not considered when awarding damages. Some of these factors may come as a surprise to you, as they are things that you may think would certainly be taken into consideration. These factors include:
- The grief, sorrow or mental anguish of the plaintiff
- The pain and suffering of the deceased.
- The poverty or wealth of the plaintiff
Some of these restrictions are in place to give a fair and accurate accounting of the process. Others are very difficult to assess, like grief and suffering of the plaintiff.
When deciding on life expectancy, the judge will consider factors such as the average life expectancy of somebody that age, the person’s health, habits, activities, lifestyle and occupation. There exists published material that goes into deep detail about these factors and what you could expect when being awarded damages.
Do you have further questions about what sorts of damages you could expect to be awarded? Are you unsure of how to proceed with your case of wrongful death, or do you want a team with a history of success in your corner as you pursue justice? If you live in Glendale, CA and want to arrange a consultation with us to discuss your case, give us at The Shirvanian Law Firm a call at (818) 835-5396 and we will be happy to arrange an appointment for you. You deserve to have your case handled by a team of professionals. Trust us to help you.