How much is a wrongful death lawsuit worth?
The value of a wrongful death lawsuit will depend on a number of factors. In California, survivors are generally entitled to two types of damages: economic and non-economic damages. Both types of damages are intended to compensate survivors for the support that they could reasonably have expected to receive from their loved one if he or she had lived.
Economic damages are the types of losses that are more easily ascertained. For example, in a wrongful death action, economic damages may include funeral and burial expenses, the financial support that the deceased person would have contributed to the family during their lifetime, the reasonable value of household services that he or she would have provided, and the loss of gifts or benefits that the survivors would have received from the deceased. In many cases, an expert witness will need to determine the value of these damages, but there are methods to determine things such as the amount of money that a person would have contributed to the family over their lifetime.
Non-economic damages include more speculative losses that can be harder to determine. This may include compensation for loss of affection, moral support, training and guidance, society and companionship, protection, and sexual relations. A survivor cannot be awarded damages for grief, sorrow, or pain and suffering caused by their loved one’s death as part of a wrongful death action. However, a jury can award any amount that is reasonable for these types of damages.
In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded — but only if the defendant has been convicted of felony homicide. Punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
One of the biggest factors influencing the value of a wrongful death case is the amount that a deceased person could be expected to contribute financially to the family over his or her lifetime. For this reason, his or her age, health, occupation, and lifestyle will significantly influence the total worth of the case.