What Are the Damages for Wrongful Death in California?

What Are the Damages for Wrongful Death in California?

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can bring closure as well as compensation for economic and non-economic damages such as medical, funeral, and burial expenses, lost financial support, and loss of guidance and companionship. Wrongful death damages will help ease the many challenges that you incur as you and your family rebuild your lives. California law favors the survivors of an accident victim who has suffered a fatality. However, collecting fair and reasonable compensation is challenging.  

In every wrongful death case, you can improve your opportunity for justice by hiring the Los Angeles wrongful death lawyers at Ellis Law. We focus on obtaining compensation for your loved one through a California wrongful death lawsuit, allowing you and your family the opportunity to grieve and recover from your loss. We will make the process as stress-free as possible for you. 

What Types of Damages Are Available in a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit? 

Three categories of California wrongful death damages may be recoverable following a fatal accident: 

  • Economic damages, which are intended to replace your family’s actual economic losses that are the result of wrongful death and may include matters such as medical, funeral, and burial expenses, lost financial support, the value of household services, and other costs and expenses that have an objective basis. 
  • Non-economic damages are the dollar value of the deceased party’s companionship, affection, moral support, and other costs and expenses related to the loss of the deceased party’s emotional and psychological assistance. 
  • Punitive damages punish the negligent party for willful or egregious conduct that caused the accidental fatality. However, punitive damages are extremely rare in a California wrongful death lawsuit. 

How Are California Wrongful Death Damages Calculated? 

A California court will examine all available evidence to calculate wrongful death damages, including: 

  • Invoices for funeral and burial expenses. 
  • Wage statements and bank records show the deceased party’s earnings that will be lost due to that party’s death. 
  • Medical bills incurred before that death. 
  • Pension statements and other evidence of potential future earnings that are no longer available. 
  • Testimony from family members that reflects their trauma due to the wrongful death. 
  • A per diem rate for the accident victim’s pain and suffering between the date of the accident and their date of death. 

 To determine non-economic damages not reflected in invoices or financial statements, a court might award 1.5 to 5 times the economic damages, with higher multipliers used for more serious instances of negligence. 

Are Wrongful Death Damages Taxable? 

Per IRS Rule 1.104.1, wrongful death damages are generally not subject to taxation. As with many income tax matters, there may be exceptions to this depending on how different components of the wrongful death damages settlement or award are characterized. Our California injury attorneys will verify that compensation paid to an accident victim’s family is not eroded by taxation to the fullest extent possible under applicable Federal and state laws. 

How Do Wrongful Death Settlements Differ from California Wrongful Death Court Awards? 

In many wrongful death lawsuits, the defendant’s insurance carriers will be liable to pay damages. An insurer will often prefer to settle a case rather than risk a higher damages award at trial, particularly where the defendant’s negligence is clear from all available evidence. This does not mean, however, that an insurance company will offer a fair settlement amount.   

California insurers refer to large databases of wrongful death settlements to set a base offer. The insurer’s initial offer rarely accounts for the unique aspects of an individual wrongful death lawsuit. An experienced California wrongful death attorney will challenge that base offer with a detailed settlement demand package. It will include supporting documentation that justifies a substantially higher amount. If the insurer refuses to increase its offer, that attorney will then take the matter to trial and will use that documentation to convince a jury to establish a fair and reasonable damages award. 

Contact Ellis Law for a Free Consultation  

The California wrongful death attorneys at Ellis Law can answer your questions about how to calculate wrongful death damages and what evidence you will need. We represent accident victims and their families throughout Southern California, from Los Angeles to San Bernadino and beyond, and we provide no-fee consultations to all families whose loved ones suffered a fatal accident.  

Since we work on a contingency fee basis, you will not pay attorney’s fees unless we win compensation for your loss.