When individuals lose their lives because of the negligence or wrongful acts of others, California law provides for two separate legal actions that may be brought by certain loved ones – a wrongful death action and a survival action. Wrongful death lawsuits are authorized by California Code of Civil Procedure §377.60, and survival actions are created by California Code of Civil Procedure §377.30. If you believe you may have a claim based on the untimely loss of a loved one, it is important to understand the difference between the two types of claims and what kinds of damages you may be able to recover under each.

California Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims can be filed by a victim’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren of deceased children, and other parties who would be entitled to inherit property under California law in the absence of a will. Under the statute, damages that are recoverable in a wrongful death action are those that “are just” under the circumstances of the case, but may not include those damages that are available
through a survival action (discussed below). The damages that are often sought in a California wrongful death action include the following:

  • Burial expenses;
  • Loss of services;
  • Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support; and
  • The loss of sexual companionship.

Notably, the wrongful death statute does not authorize damages for a survivor’s pain and suffering or punitive damages. For this reason, it is important for survivors to fully explore their legal options, as additional damages are available through a survival action.

California Survival Actions

Perhaps the best way to think about a California survival action is that it allows a personal representative to assume the legal rights of the decedent. In other words, a survival action allows the estate to obtain the damages the decedent would have been able to obtain had he or she lived. These actions are only available in cases where the decedent survived for a period of time after the accident or incident that ultimately resulted in his or her death. Damages recoverable in a California survival action are “the loss or damage that the decedent sustained or incurred before death, including any penalties or punitive or exemplary damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover had the decedent lived.” Importantly, the survival action statute does not allow for damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement.

Contact a California Wrongful Death Attorney Today to Learn More

If you have lost a loved one due to an accident or because of the wrongful act of another person, you should discuss your legal options with an attorney as soon as you can. The California wrongful death lawyers of GJEL are committed to helping surviving family members obtain justice through the civil courts and work hard to obtain the largest settlement or award available. To schedule a free consultation, call 866-218-3776 or send us an email through our online contact form.

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.