Damages in a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A wrongful death lawsuit’s aim is to provide financial compensation to the plaintiff. Here’s how to calculate wrongful death damages in California.

The economic damages include things of monetary value relating to the individual’s death, such as funeral expenses. Noneconomic damages are far more subjective, including loss of love and guidance from the individual. As such, there is no set ‘correct’ number; it must be determined by the jury based on their interpretation of the case.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

Wrongful death lawsuits arise when an individual dies due to the actions of another person, such as in car accidents, medical malpractice, or even intentional acts such as homicide. While the purpose of a criminal trial in cases such as this is to determine whether or not the perpetrator should receive prison time or other sanctions, the purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to recover damages. Damages are simply financial compensation for the results of an action.

According to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60, any of the following individuals may bring a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • The spouse of the decedent
  • The domestic partner of the decedent
  • The children of the decedent
  • The grandchildren of the decedent, if the decedent’s children are deceased

Furthermore, if they were dependent on the decedent, then the following individuals may bring a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • The putative spouse of the decedent and/or their children
  • The stepchildren of the decedent
  • The legal guardians of the decedent

If you wish to bring a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of a family member, contact Her Lawyer to be put in touch with a wrongful death lawyer who will help ensure that you receive the damages that you are entitled to.

Related: Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California

Types of Wrongful Death Damages

There are two categories of wrongful death damages that must be determined by the jury: economic and non-economic. These damages, as well as how to generally calculate them, are included in CACI (Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions) No. 3921. CACI’s are forms that serve as instructions and guidelines for juries when making decisions.

Economic damages are financial compensation for the monetary impact that the individual’s death will have upon the plaintiff. CACI No. 3921 states all of the following should be included when calculating economic damages:

  • The financial support that the decedent would have provided in either their or the plaintiff’s lifetime, whichever is shorter
  • The loss of gifts from the decedent
  • Funeral expenses
  • The value of household services that the decedent would have provided

Non-economic damages, however, are far more subjective. The jury must attempt to put a monetary value on the non-monetary impact that the loss of the decedent will have on the plaintiff(s). The following should be considered when calculating the non-economic damages:

  • The loss of love, affection, comfort, etc. from the decedent
  • The spouse/partner’s loss of intimate enjoyment with the decedent
  • The loss of the decedent’s guidance

Non-economic damages are highly subjective because CACI No. 3921 explicitly states that there is no universal standard for calculating these non-economic damages. Each case will be different, depending on the many factors of the case as well as the makeup of each jury.

Related: 7 Types and Examples of a Wrongful Death Case

Generally, there is no cap on the amount of non-economic damages that may be awarded. However, according to California Civil Code Section 3333.2, non-economic damages in the case of medical malpractice cannot exceed $250,000.

Related: How to Sue a Hospital in California: What You Need to Know

FAQs about How to Calculate Wrongful Death Damages in California

What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

Wrongful death lawsuits may be brought against an individual whose actions caused the death of another person, such as in the case of accidents or murder. The objective of the lawsuit is to recover damages or financial compensation.

Who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit?

An individual in the decedent’s line of succession can bring a wrongful death lawsuit.

What types of damages are calculated in a wrongful death lawsuit?

Economic damages and non-economic damages are calculated in a wrongful death lawsuit.

What are economic damages?

Economic damages are the financial compensation for the monetary impact of the person’s death. This includes payment for funeral expenses as well as the financial support that they would have provided had they not died.

What are non-economic damages?

Non-economic damages are the financial compensation for the impact that a person’s death has on the plaintiff(s). This includes loss of love and guidance from the decedent.

How are wrongful death damages calculated?

The jury will calculate the economic and non-economic damages, and each will be awarded to the plaintiff(s) in a successful lawsuit.

Contact Us

If you have any more questions on how to calculate wrongful death damages in California, contact us. The attorneys at Her Lawyer can help you build a strong case and receive compensation on behalf of the wronged party. Get your free consultation today!