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What Types of Damages can I Recover in a Wrongful Death Case?

The wrongful death lawyers at SHOOP | A PROFESSIONAL LAW CORPORATION handle all manner of wrongful death claims. Attorney David Shoop recently resolved a wrongful death case in Northern California for $3.5 million. The lawyers at the firm discuss, below, the types of damages generally recoverable in wrongful death claims and cases. 

The damages analysis in wrongful death claims begins with the victim. For example, different types of damages are recoverable for a death of an adult as opposed to a parent's recovery for the death of a (minor) child.

In the State of California, there are plain-language jury instructions, often referred to simply as, "CACI" (California Civil Jury Instructions). CACI 3921 discusses at length the types of damages recoverable for the wrongful death of an adult. Generally, if the jury has decided at the end of a trial that the plaintiff has proved his or her case as against the defendant(s) for wrongful death, the jury will next be tasked with a determination as to the amount of money that will serve to reasonably compensate the plaintiff for the death. This monetary compensation is referred to as "damages."

These damages comprise two categories, called "economic damages" and "noneconomic damages." Economic damages include, but are not limited to, financial support that the decedent would have contributed to the family unit either during the life expectancy of the decedent; the loss of benefits or gifts that the plaintiff could have expected to receive from the decedent; funeral and burial expenses; and also what is commonly referred to as the "reasonable value of household services" that the decedent would have provided the family.
Moreover, the award of any future such economic damages are typically reduced to present cash value.

Another item of damages, called non-economic damages, are also recoverable in wrongful death actions. These non-economic damages include, most significantly, the loss of the decedent, family member's love, companionship, comfort, care, protection, affection, society, moral support, training and guidance. Take a minute to consider those words. Think about what they mean. Think of the value they ascribe to familial relationships and the important role your loved one's fill in your daily life. Obviously, no set standard exists for deciding these amounts of non-economic damages. Jurors are asked to use their best judgment in determining a reasonable amount to compensate for the loss of a loved one based on the evidence and "common sense." The wrongful death lawyers at SHOOP | A PROFESSIONAL LAW CORPORATION believe that corporate defendants typically undervalue these types of damages in death cases.

Wrongful death cases involving a parent's recovery for the loss of their minor child are not dissimilar, and are governed in California by CACI 3922. As with an adult wrongful death case, should the jury decide at the end of a trial that the plaintiff has proved his or her case as against the defendant(s) for wrongful death of the minor child, the jury will next be asked to determine the amount of money that will serve to reasonably compensate the plaintiff parent for the death of the child.
The economic losses are calculated in a substantially similar fashion in that the jury will consider the value of the financial support that the minor child would have contributed to the family during either the child's life expectancy before death or the life expectancy of the plaintiff, whichever is shorter; the loss of gifts or benefits that plaintiff could have expected to receive from the minor; as well as funeral and burial expenses; and t he reasonable value of household services that would have been provided. Again, the jury's award of any future such economic damages will typically be reduced to present cash value.

The most significant damages, of course, in the wrongful death of a child involve noneconomic damages for loss of the child's love, companionship, comfort, affection and society, to name a few. Here again, jurors are asked to use their best judgment in determining a reasonable amount to compensate for the loss of a loved one based on the evidence and "common sense."

The attorneys at SHOOP | A PROFESSIONAL LAW CORPORATION are experts in the handling of wrongful death cases. In our experience, these cases are undervalued by manufacturers and corporate defendants, and we do not rest until you receive maximum compensation for your losses.

Call us at (877) 324-6853

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