In wrongful death claims, family members and beneficiaries may qualify to file for compensation for damages they endure. These damages are known as economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are pretty straight forward; they are the tangible expenses that are relatively easy to identify and calculate. They include things like:
- Medical bills;
- Funeral expenses;
- Household services; and
- Other qualifying out-of-pocket expenses.
You simply need to add up the receipts to arrive at a sum.
Non-economic damages, however, are intangible expenses. They are the emotional costs of the decedent’s death. So, how are this type of damage calculated in a wrongful death claim in California? Below, we provide an overview of how it’s done.
Who calculates non-financial losses in a California wrongful death claim?
If you filed a California wrongful death claim, then your attorney may be negotiating with the relevant parties. Your attorney probably first came up with a non-economic value and the other party’s attorney probably came up with its own.
When an agreement on the value of non-economic damages cannot be made, your attorney may choose to go ahead with a lawsuit. If the matter goes to trial, it will be up to the jury to come up with an amount that invokes our common sense and is, therefore, just and fair.
Your California wrongful death attorney will provide evidence that will satisfy the jury’s questions about your loss and what that means to you in terms of money.
How are non-economic damages calculated in a California wrongful death lawsuit?
Sometimes attorneys calculate non-economic damages by simply multiplying economic damages by two or three — depending on the nature and circumstances of the death. That approach is not standard and is not considerate of the facts and circumstances related to the wrongful death of the individual. The best means of calculation is no standard calculation method, but taking each case on its own merits.
When a jury calculates the damages, it will consider the evidence before it. Your attorney, therefore, will collect evidence that will seek to explain and demonstrate your relationship with the decedent. Evidence can include things like:
- Testimony of relatives, friends, teachers, co-workers, or anyone who has a first-hand account of your relationship with the loved one;
- Documentation that attests to the relationship, e.g., letters between you and the decedent, birthday cards, etc.
- Photographs and videos identifying your relationship will also strengthen your case.
When your attorney can effectively and persuasively show the decedent was a loving parent or partner, juries tend to award more than if the decedent lacked a certain closeness with or seemed distant from you and/or other family members.
When the decedent is a child, the economic contribution may be less than the value of a deceased adult’s contribution because the child’s contribution is quite speculative. Plus, juries can take into consideration the parents will not pay for educational costs and can, therefore, lower the economic value accordingly.
Non-economic damages, however, may be greater. The love a parent has for his or her child is incomparable to anything else. Parents expect to receive this love over the length of their lives — no parent expects to live longer this his or her child. The jury quite likely consists of persons who are parents themselves. They sympathize, and they reward accordingly.
There is no one way to calculate non-economic damages. The important thing is the relationship and how that factors into:
- The loss of love, comfort, care, companionship, affection moral support;
- The loss of sexual relations; and/or
- The loss of training and guidance by the deceased.
An experienced attorney can put the evidence together to persuasively and accurately depict what the value of the decedent’s relationship (and the loss of it) means to you. Contact a resourceful, aggressive wrongful death attorney in California today.