Is There an Average Wrongful Death Settlement Amount in California?
October 26th, 2021|
Clients frequently ask what the average wrongful death settlement amount is in California. Because each case is unique and every victim is different, there is no definitive answer. However, several common factors are used to determine a settlement amount, which can help estimate what you are owed.
Unlike other types of settlements, wrongful death cases are extremely difficult to evaluate due to many variables. While you may be able to assign a figure to a loss of income, services, monetary support, or other economic factors, intangibles are more challenging to determine.
The tragic loss of a family member can have a devastating emotional impact, which is impossible to evaluate monetarily. In many cases, a loss of comfort or guidance may be more impactful than a lack of financial support.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit that occurs when someone dies due to a legal fault of a person or entity, be it intentional or accidental. Some of California’s most common types of wrongful deaths include medical malpractice and car accident cases.
According to California law, those entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit include the decedent’s spouse or domestic partner, children, or grandchildren. If there are no surviving members of the deceased’s family line, a wrongful death claim can be filed by someone who may be entitled to compensation by “intestate succession.” This is usually the deceased’s parents, siblings, or other relatives.
In some cases, wrongful death claims may be filed by someone who can prove they were financially dependent on the deceased person.
What Factors Determine a Wrongful Death Settlement Amount?
Various factors influence a jury’s assessment of the wrongful death settlement amount. These factors traditionally include the financial losses resulting from the accident and the deceased person’s background and lifestyle.
Tangible losses are economic damages that cover all out-of-pocket expenses. These substantial losses might compensate a family’s lost health insurance, among other costs incurred by the death. These can include:
- Reasonable funeral and burial costs the family incurred.
- Loss of future wages and employment benefits that the deceased would have earned for the family if the loved one had lived.
- The value of any gifts or inheritance the family would have received from the deceased.
- Costs associated with household services provided by the deceased.
California law does not permit families to receive money for the poverty and grief, pain, or suffering they experience after a wrongful death. However, it allows them to recover other intangible losses known as non-economic damages, such as:
- The loss of the deceased’s “love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support.”
- Spouse or partner’s loss of intimacy from the deceased.
- Loss of the deceased’s guidance.
The deceased person’s life expectancy, habits, activities, and lifestyle can all be considered when determining the surviving family members’ settlement amount. The following factors are looked at when calculating intangible losses:
- Whether the deceased left behind a spouse or small children.
- If family members were close to the deceased person.
- If the deceased person was an important member of their community and had a morally upright character.
Factors That Can Reduce a Settlement Amount
Some factors that might reduce the settlement are:
- There were no or few close family ties and no surviving spouse for the deceased.
- The deceased was elderly and retired.
- Isolation from the deceased’s local community.
- Contribution to the accident that resulted in their death.
- Previous criminal background.
Aside from relying on these factors, jurors are advised to rely on evidence to come to a reasonable amount. Because of these reasons, determining the exact amount and value of a wrongful death settlement is challenging.
Contact Berg Injury Lawyers for 24/7 Support
For advice and guidance on settling a wrongful death case, contact San Francisco Personal Injury Lawyers, Berg Injury Lawyers. Our compassionate and experienced legal team can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Our attorneys understand what it takes to prove your wrongful death case, and we have years of experience negotiating favorable settlements on behalf of our clients.
Contact us for a free consultation and to discuss how we can help you receive a fair wrongful death settlement in California.