Wrongful Death Compensation: What You Need To Know Before Filing A Claim
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were nearly 225,000 unintentional injuries causing deaths in 2021. When one person passes away because of another’s wrongful action through carelessness or intentional action, the surviving loved ones may be able to claim “wrongful death” compensation. The processes of wrongful death claims can be difficult, or even overwhelming, for the bereaved to navigate, which is why experienced attorneys can help. The Riverside, California wrongful death lawyers at Heiting & Irwin understand that this is an extremely hard time for grieving families and work closely with their clients to assist them with their needs. Consider reaching out for a free initial consultation to review your case at (951) 682-6400.
Is There a Cap on Wrongful Death Compensation?
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that surviving loved ones can file against the individual(s) or entity(ies) whose wrongful actions led to the death of their family member. Wrongful death claims may be filed for deaths caused by negligence, such as car accidents or defective products, as well as for intentional acts. In some cases, medical malpractice may also be grounds for a wrongful death suit. In California, surviving spouses, domestic partners, children, heirs, and other people who were financially dependent on the person who has passed away may have the right to file a wrongful death claim.
While there is no general cap on wrongful death compensation in California, in 2022, wrongful death compensation due to medical malpractice is, this year, capped at $500,000, with the cap set to increase in stages over the following ten years until it reaches $1 million. These are the first increases in available damages in almost 40 years!
How Is Death Compensation Calculated?
Wrongful death compensation considers both economic and non-economic damages. In California, bereaved family members may also file “survivor actions” alongside wrongful death claims. A successful survivor action awards compensation for damages the deceased may have incurred or suffered before passing away.
The amount of wrongful death compensation a surviving loved one may receive varies greatly depending on factors such as the relationship to the person, and the costs of replacing care provided by the person who has passed away, as well as lost financial support. If you have lost a loved one, or have questions about whether you may be eligible for wrongful death compensation, it may be helpful to discuss with a lawyer such as the compassionate attorneys at Heiting & Irwin.
Economic Damages – Wrongful Death Cases
Economic damages are typically understood to refer to the expected economic or material contributions the deceased person could have been expected to make to his or her heirs and those left behind. Because the person has died unexpectedly, they are no longer able to make those contributions, and so part of the rationale behind economic damages is that the person or entity responsible for a wrongful death should compensate the deceased person’s family for those economic losses. Economic damages may also include any expenses (such as the costs of medical care, funeral and burial expenses, and the like) incurred by the deceased individual in the course of their wrongful death. Some examples of economic damages might be:
- Financial support that the person who has passed away would have contributed to their family, such as wages, services, help, maintenance, and similar activities that can be measured by economic numbers.
- The loss of any gifts or other benefits that the family member(s) would have received from the person who passed away
- Medical expenses prior to death
- Funeral and burial expenses
Non-economic damages are harder than economic damages to quantify, but establishing a monetary amount is critical to the award of compensation. Some potential examples of non-economic damages are:
- The pain and suffering that a loved one experienced prior to their death (survivor action)
- The loss of that loved one’s care and emotional support and social interaction
- The loss of companionship, especially in the context of a spousal relationship or domestic partnership
- The loss of guidance from the person who has passed away, often as a parent or other senior family member
- The inability to call on that person for love, comfort, advice
What is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement?
The amount awarded in wrongful death settlements can vary; there is no average wrongful death compensation. Some of the highest wrongful death settlements have been millions of dollars, while others have been quite a bit less. Some of the factors that may increase the wrongful death settlement may include:
- The relative youth of the person who passed away
- The number of dependents, including young children and a financially dependent partner or spouse, who relied on the deceased person; and the amount of support given.
- The circumstances of the person’s death––for example, if the death was a result of a negligent landlord or car accident
- The community standing of the person who passed away; who they were and what they were like.
- The relationships of the parties.
Who Gets the Money in Death?
Typically, the people who receive wrongful death compensation in a successful wrongful death suit are the same people who have the legal authority to claim as heirs. It also includes those who relied on the deceased for support in certain circumstances. The beneficiaries may receive compensation for the economic and non-economic damages discussed above.
How A Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
Understanding the intricacies of wrongful death cases and wrongful death compensation may seem overwhelming, especially when you are already dealing with the loss of a loved one. A compassionate and knowledgeable attorney may be able to provide the guidance that you seek. At Heiting & Irwin, our wrongful death attorneys recognize that this is a very difficult time for you and your loved ones, and we work closely with our clients to help shoulder these responsibilities. Consider reaching out to us today for a free initial consultation at (951) 682-6400 or visit us online at www.hilegalgroup.com