Losses awarded in a wrongful death case are primarily financial. There is nothing that will truly make up for the loss of a loved one. No amount of money. No court ruling. Nothing will fill the void of loss, but you can make up for the lost finances.
Recovering losses in a wrongful death cases means being compensated for expenses associated with the death, and lost financial support. This lost financial support is called pecuniary loss.
What is pecuniary loss?
Pecuniary losses are the losses incurred because of someone’s death. The courts uses factors like the loss of support, services and inheritance in determining what you may receive in compensation for pecuniary loss. Compensation also often includes medical and funeral costs.
The courts use factors such as age, earning capacity, health and life expectancy of the deceased in determining how to award damages.
Who awards damages?
A jury hears the evidence in a wrongful death case and awards damages accordingly. This, however, is not the final determination. The court may increase or decrease the actual award for a variety of reasons.
The jury listens to expert testimony throughout the trial, and makes the best determination given the information, but the courts do have the authority to make adjustments to the financial award.
What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages are used to punish the defendant for serious or malicious acts. In most states, including California, punitive damages cannot be award in a wrongful death case.
Wrongful death cases are rarely straightforward. The legal system allows for receiving damages for the death of loved one, but there is no easy formula for determining the exact amount.