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What damages are allowed in a wrongful death case?

People in California who have lost a loved one need time for grieving the life of a close friend or family member. But when their loved one is killed as the result of another person's negligent or reckless behavior, they may also want justice by holding that person accountable for their actions. People who cause the wrongful death of another in California may be required to pay significant damages to the remaining spouse, children or other immediate family members of the deceased victim.

Under California law, these damages come in several different forms, which are roughly grouped into two groups known as economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include measurable amounts that a person who lost a loved one is being deprived of as a result of their death, and also such costs as funeral expenses. This includes the deceased's lost earnings, their contributions to the well-being of the plaintiff, and the value of the services they would have provided for the plaintiff during their life.

For example, take a 55-year old man who died as a result of being hit by a drunk driver in a car accident and his wife sued on his behalf. If he earned $50,000 a year, the jury may conclude that the man had 10 more years of earnings before retirement, and may award the man's family $500,000 in lost wages. In addition, they may value his other economic contributions to the household, including upkeep, chores, and picking up the kids from school at another $100,000. If they added funeral expenses of $10,000, the jury could return a reward of $610,000 in total economic damages.

Economic damages can be very significant in a wrongful death suit depending on the various factors involved in the case. An experienced California personal injury attorney can provide more information on wrongful death lawsuits and the potential for damage awards.

Source: Judicial Council of California, "California Civil Jury Instructions," accessed Feb. 15, 2015

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