What May a Jury Consider in Determining a California Wrongful Death Award?

By May 17, 2010 January 19th, 2018 Blog | Wrongful Death Lawyer

The sudden and unexpected death of a loved one can be both emotionally and financially traumatizing. If the decedent was your spouse, you have lost your life partner as well as the other half of your financial future. If you have children, they have lost not only their parent but someone that contributed financial and emotional guidance. If the decedent was your adult child, aside from having to deal with the nightmare of outliving your child, you may have lost someone that you trusted to care for you in your later years. If the death of your loved one was caused by the negligence of another person or persons, then the loss and the pain are that much worse.

Filing a California wrongful death lawsuit will not bring your loved one back, but it may help ease the financial burden faced by you and your family as a result of the death of your loved one. A wrongful death lawsuit is an action that alleges that your loved one’s death was the result, in whole or in part, of the negligent or willful conduct of the defendant. According to California wrongful death attorney Emery Ledger, a wrongful death lawsuit can only be filed by specific heirs or persons with a relationship to the decedent as outline in the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60. Once a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed, your attorney will begin the process of attempting to value the case. This can be a very emotional process as no one wants to put a value on the life of a loved one. Once you and your attorney have reached what you believe to be a reasonable value for the case, your attorney will begin to negotiate with the Defendant or their insurance company. If a settlement amount is agreed upon, then the case will come to a close. If however, you and your attorney are not able to reach a reasonable settlement amount with the Defendant, then your case will eventually move to a jury trial where the jury will determine whether the defendant was negligent and if so, how much to award you for your loss.

At the jury trial phase, there are a number of factors that the jury is allowed to consider when determining the value of the case and some things that the jury cannot consider. Among those things that the jury may consider are: loss of financial support that the claimant will suffer; earning capacity of the deceased; whether the decedent was thrifty or generous with his money; whether the decedent contributed freely to your support; the age of the decedent and your age; the health of the decedent and your health; and the life expectancy of the decedent and your life expectancy. The jury will only consider the shorter of the two life expectancies. In other words, if the decedent was your father, than compensation would be figured through the expected end of his life – not yours. Unlike other types of tort cases, the jury may not consider pain, suffering, emotional distress, mental distress, grief or sorrow that you have experienced as a result of the decedent’s death. The jury may, however, award an amount for loss of support, affection, love, companionship, comfort, society, solace and consortium (if applicable). The statute does not address how to figure this amount but says that damages awarded “under all the circumstances of the case, may be just”.

If you have additional questions regarding a California wrongful death claim, please feel free to contact California wrongful death attorney Emery Ledger at his firm Ledger & Associates either online at www.ledgerlaw.com or at his toll-free number 1-800-300-0001.