California Wrongful Death Legal Changes

It is never easy when someone you love passes away. For those who lose a loved one due to the negligence of someone else, it can be even more difficult to work through the grief. They are left to wonder why this happened and if it could have been prevented as they struggle to come to terms with never seeing their loved one again.

In California, legal changes signed by Governor Newsom in 2022 have led to increases in the damages cap for wrongful death cases involving medical malpractice. The cap was set at $250,000 and will now increase to $500,000. It is designed to increase in increments over the next decade until it reaches $1 million.

Why Are There Changes to Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Limits?

California has been limited to one of the lowest nationwide caps for medical malpractice lawsuits because of the California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) of 1975. This legislation limited the awards for non-economic damages to $250,000 regardless of how many negligent parties were involved.

With this change to the law, victims can stack the damages in a more advantageous way to recover compensation. For example, if a doctor and the hospital were found negligent, the cap would be $500,000 per defendant, giving a potential cap of $1 million in damages.

While no amount of money could ever bring back someone you love whose life was unnecessarily ended due to medical negligence, it can provide some level of justice. Wrongful death cases are already complex in nature, and with these changes in California, it may be even more mystifying to find out how much you could recover in your lawsuit. A Stockton wrongful death attorney can help protect your family and work to seek the maximum benefit under these new laws.

Understanding Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims can arise when negligent actions by someone else lead to the untimely passing of another. The surviving heirs may file a claim which can determine the responsibility of the other party.

A wrongful death claim can only be successful if the person who passed away died because of another person’s negligent or intentional acts. Additionally, the surviving family members must have suffered damages due to the passing of their loved one and there must be a representative for the deceased’s estate.

Who Is Permitted to File a Wrongful Death Claim in This State?

In California, the laws govern who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The surviving spouse or registered domestic partners qualify to file this type of claim. Children can file as well as stepchildren who depended on the deceased for a minimum of 50% of their financial support. Grandchildren can file a wrongful death claim if the decedent’s children are also deceased, and successors of the estate can file a survival action.

Simply put, a survival action is the lawsuit that the deceased would have been able to file had they survived the injuries they sustained. The state honors existing lawsuits of those who suffered and perished from the serious injuries of a personal injury accident.

Survival actions are only permitted if the victim did not die immediately from the injuries. These actions can also include any personal injury claims that were filed by the victim prior to their passing. The personal representative of the victim’s estate can file a survival action along with a wrongful death lawsuit.

It is not easy to know what to do when tragedy strikes your family in this way. You should allow yourself the chance to properly grieve while letting an attorney take the reins and stand up for your legal rights. In cases like these, you should hire someone who understands all the complexities of these laws and what the damage caps mean in determining a fair level of compensation.

Damages That Can Be Recovered for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in California

California wrongful death claims are used to seek economic damages that relate to the direct financial costs that have been incurred. Economic damages tend to include losses and expenses such as hospital bills, lost wages, therapies, medication, and loss of future income.

In California, economic damages can be sought without limitation in wrongful death cases for the financial support your loved one would have contributed to the household if they had lived. You can also seek economic damages for funeral and burial expenses, among other things.

Non-economic damages can be sought without limitation to compensate for the loss of companionship, protection, moral support, affection, guidance, and consortium. Since 2022, plaintiffs in wrongful death claims can also recover damages for the pain, suffering, or disfigurement suffered by their lost loved one. Punitive damages are not possible in wrongful death claims, but they can be available if you file a survival action.

Filing Before California’s Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Runs Out

For Californians, the wrongful death statute of limitations is set at two years from the date of death. You will also have two years for a survival action either from the date of the injury or six months after your loved one passed away from this injury.

Grappling with the loss of someone you love is one of the worst feelings anyone can experience. When you find out that they would still be here with you if not for someone else’s negligent actions, it can make you feel angry, hopeless, and like you have nowhere to turn. It is only natural that you will want time to properly grieve, however, the sooner you act by filing a wrongful death claim, the sooner you can find peace.

The best way to get through this is to speak with a wrongful death attorney to discuss these tragic events. They will be able to gather proper evidence and ensure everything is filed in advance of deadlines. They will also examine your legal rights and help you get what is fair in compensation.