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Wrongful Death LawsuitUnderstanding Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

February 15, 20240

When a person dies due to the negligent or intentional actions of another party, the surviving family members may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. These types of lawsuits seek compensation for the losses and harms suffered by the decedent’s relatives. Determining the damages in a wrongful death case can be complicated, as there are several different categories of damages that may apply.

Economic Damages

Economic damages in a wrongful death claim are meant to compensate the plaintiffs for tangible financial losses. These losses can be extensive and devastating for grieving families who relied on the deceased loved one’s income, services, and support. Quantifying these losses can be extremely difficult and emotionally painful for surviving family members who now face financial hardship.

These may include:

Lost Income and Benefits

The deceased person’s future income and employment benefits can be calculated and awarded to dependents. Experts may be brought in to estimate the person’s earning capacity over their expected working lifetime. Calculating future earnings often involves a complicated analysis of the person’s education, job history, promotions, and salary growth potential. The sudden loss of this expected income can cause severe financial distress for grieving family members.

Medical and Funeral Expenses

Funeral and burial costs, plus any medical bills the decedent incurred prior to death would typically be reimbursed. These final expenses may put further strain on families dealing with grief and transition. Reasonable compensation for these costs helps ease the immediate financial burden on top of emotional trauma.

Loss of Services, Guidance and Support

The decedent’s spouse and children may have a claim for the loss of household services like cleaning, childcare, transportation, etc. Losing guidance and nurturing can also be assigned a monetary value. Replacing these invaluable contributions requires significant time, effort, and sometimes the expense of hiring outside help. The emotional impact of losing daily support and wise counsel often far exceeds the measurable economic impact.

Economic damages should provide money to directly replace the measurable financial contributions and support that the deceased would have been expected to provide.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages cover losses that do not have a precise financial quantity. But the harm and suffering is very real nonetheless. Typical non-economic damages include:

Pain and Suffering Before Death

If the decedent experienced trauma, pain, and emotional distress in the incident leading up to their death, the estate can seek compensation for these damages. Knowing a loved one suffered emotionally in their final moments adds further grief and turmoil for the bereaved. Though no amount of money can quantify human suffering, reasonable compensation aims to provide some accountability and closure.

Loss of Companionship

Losing the intimacy, support, and day-to-day company of a close family member warrants significant compensation for grieving relatives. The sudden absence leaves a hole in the lives of spouses, children, parents, and siblings that can never truly be replaced. Counseling and therapy may be needed to help adjust to this dramatic life change.

Loss of Guidance and Nurturing

Though the financial impact falls under economic damages, the emotional impact on minor children who lose parental support and guidance fits better under non-economic categories. Losing a parent’s love, praise, discipline, advice and physical affection can severely impact a child’s upbringing and emotional well-being. The effects may manifest well into adulthood with long-term counseling often necessary.

Punitive Damages

In rare cases where gross negligence or intentional harm was involved, the court may decide to award punitive damages on top of economic and non-economic compensation. These are meant to punish the defendant and deter similar conduct going forward. Punitive awards are restricted in some states, although California has no cap, but when they are allowed, they can greatly increase the value of a wrongful death verdict or settlement.

It is easy to see that trying to place a dollar figure on human life presents challenges. No amount of money can ever adequately compensate for losing a beloved family member. However, civil damages aim to provide some material assistance and accountability. An experienced wrongful death attorney from Payam Law can advise grieving families on what damages they may be entitled to, and build the strongest possible case for just compensation.

Though the loss can never be undone, holding the responsible parties to account can help survivors find some closure and means to move forward. Speak to one of our personal injury lawyers today for advice. You can visit our offices at the following locations:

  • Beverly Hills – 8383 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 830, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
  • Los Angeles – 212 East Pico Blvd, Suite #4, Los Angeles, CA 90015
  • Tulare – 100 E. Cross, Suite #122, Tulare, CA 93274
  • Hanford – 13400 Hanford Armona Rd, Suite #B

Call now for a free consultation on (877) 729-2652 or (323) 782-9927.


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