California wrongful death damages are payable to plaintiffs—the plaintiffs are not the actual victim, as the victim is deceased and cannot be compensated. Medical expenses and lost income cannot be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit, as those things belong directly to the decedent.
The wrongful death claim belongs to and is recoverable by a personal representative (plaintiff) in the action. A survival action may allow the decedent’s estate to recover certain compensation to be paid to the estate.
Juries are allowed to award compensation to the plaintiff based on the following:
- The financial support that the decedent would have contributed to the plaintiff during the life expectancy of the decedent or the plaintiff, whichever is shorter.
- The loss of gifts or benefits that the plaintiff would have expected to receive from the decedent.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- The reasonable value of household services that the decedent would have provided to the plaintiff.
Some non-economic losses may also be awarded, including the loss of the decedent’s love, comfort, protection, assistance, care and affection, the loss of sexual relations (if applicable) and the loss of training and guidance of the decedent, if applicable.