Losing a loved one under any circumstances is devastating. But the devastation can feel compounded when their loss could have been avoided if not for the actions of another.
If you’ve lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence, you might wonder what to do next. In many cases, you may be able to file what’s called a wrongful death action against the party whose actions resulted in the death of your loved one.
While this can provide a pathway to some semblance of recovery and justice for the grieving survivors, there are still some significant roadblocks under current California law that often prevent people from seeking valuable compensation.
California Senate Bill 447 (CA SB 447) seeks to change the existing law to provide more robust protections for wrongful death claimants.
At Wells Call Injury Lawyers, we are devoted to fighting for the rights of wrongful death claimants. Read our guide below to learn about CA SB 447 and what it could mean for your wrongful death claim.
What Is CA SB 447
CA SB 447 seeks to make some important changes to California’s existing wrongful death laws. Specifically, the bill proposes allowing families of those who have died as a result of injuries caused by someone else’s wrongful or negligent action to recover non-economic damages.
Non-economic damages include compensation for things such as:
- Suffering, and
Accordingly, under the proposed change, surviving family members can seek these types of non-economic damages on behalf of their deceased loved one if the cause of action is filed before January 1, 2026.
The Current State of Pain and Suffering Damages in California
Currently, the California Code of Civil Procedure section 377.34 limits wrongful death damages exclusively to economic damages up to the point of the decedent’s death.
Thus, the family of someone who dies of injuries caused by another party may not recover non-economic damages that the decedent otherwise could have sought if he or she had survived.
That means surviving family members may only seek to recover economic damages, such as:
- Lost wages,
- Medical bills, and
- Punitive damages, if available.
Importantly, California is one of only five states that prohibits recovering pain and suffering damages in wrongful death actions.
Proponents of CA SB 447 argue that California’s practice of limiting recovery of non-economic damages in wrongful death actions incentivizes defendants in personal injury actions to act in bad faith and delay trials in the hope that the injured victim will die, thereby extinguishing the possibility of having to pay non-economic damages.
Pain and Suffering California Damages
Pain and suffering damages refer to the physical pain and mental anguish suffered by your loved one as a result of their injury. To recover these damages, you must prove that your loved one suffered certain physical injuries and/or mental anguish.
Parties can fight to prove pain and suffering through evidence such as:
- Medical records that explain the extent of treatment received,
- Photos of injuries that demonstrate the severity,
- Before and after information about your loved one’s level of activity,
- Testimony from loved ones, and
- Expert testimony.
Some states put a cap on non-economic damages recovery. CA SB 447, however, does not include any such cap.
How Will CA SB 447 Affect My Potential Wrongful Death Claim?
If your case was granted a preferential trial date prior to 2022, or if you file a wrongful death claim after January 1, 2022, SB 447 allows you to seek noneconomic damages and economic damages, rather than just the latter. This allows surviving family members to hold responsible parties fully accountable for their loved one’s death.
Our Wrongful Death Attorneys Are Here to Help
Losing a loved one is never easy. If your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligence, we know how difficult this time can be.
And while no amount of financial compensation can undo the loss you feel or the pain they suffered, CA S.B. 447 seeks to increase what survivors are able to recover and provide them with a greater sense of justice.
If you have questions about wrongful death claims in California and how to pursue your rights, contact our team of professional personal injury lawyers today.
Our attorneys have a strong record of success, recovering over $500 million in valuable compensation for past clients.
And while we can never guarantee specific results, we will always fight for your rights at every step along the way and strive to get you the best outcome possible.