When a motor vehicle accident results in a fatality, the loved ones of the deceased may have the legal right to file a wrongful death claim against the parties responsible for the accident. If the claim is successful, family members will have some financial support to help them on a day-to-day basis as they focus on grieving their loss.
What damages are available in a wrongful death case?
Wrongful death damages may include compensation for damages of the deceased prior to their death as well as compensation for the losses experienced by the surviving family members.
Damages on behalf of the deceased may cover:
- Medical expenses for the treatment of accident-related injuries prior to the death
- Lost wages of the deceased
- Accident-related mental and physical pain and suffering, experienced by the deceased before their death
- Funeral and burial costs
Damages on behalf of surviving family members may cover:
- Loss of future income (income that would have been earned by the deceased in the future if they had not died)
- Loss of companionship/consortium
- Lost benefits (e.g. pension, health insurance)
- Loss of parental guidance (for minor children who lose a parent)
- Loss of household services
Factors used to determine wrongful death damages
While some wrongful death damages are easily calculatable after a motor vehicle accident (e.g. damages for medical expenses can be calculated by referring to the medical bills/invoices), many of the damages listed above are not easy to figure out. For example, how do you determine the value of companionship? In such cases, courts will consider various factors to determine how much to award. Some factors may include:
- Earning capacity of the decedent (age, education, income at the time of death, job experience, job skills)
- Contributions made by the decedent to the family home (responsibilities around the house, responsibilities relating to raising minor children)
- Health issues of the decedent prior to the accident and life expectancy of the decedent
- Value of lost benefits
- Age and needs of decedent’s dependents (if any)
Personal injury attorneys have handled countless wrongful death claims and can give you and your loved ones a better idea of how much to expect if you file a lawsuit. But first, your attorney will review the circumstances of the accident and determine if another party’s negligence caused the accident and ultimately led to your loved one’s death. Your attorney can also make sure that you are have legal standing to file a wrongful death claim in the state of California.