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California Wrongful Death Lawsuits - Change to Damages Cap

Effective January 1, 2023, the damages cap for wrongful death caused by medical malpractice will increase from $250,000 to $500,000, eventually reaching $1 million over the next ten years, according to a new billsigned into effect by California Governor Newsom in 2022.

In California, medical malpractice lawsuits have been limited to one of the lowest caps nationwide due to the California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) of 1975. The Act limited medical malpractice victims’ non-economic awards to $250,000 regardless of how many doctors or healthcare institutions were found to be negligent.

For years, California lawyers have been pushing to introduce new raised caps on pain and suffering awards in an effort to modernize the existing MICRA laws to cover inflation and increased medical costs.

The new bill will also allow victims of medical malpractice to potentially stack damages involving multiple entities and providers That means, for example, if a specific case involves the negligence of a doctor and a hospital, the cap would be $500,000 for each of the defendants, reaching a potential cap of $1 million in damages. Under some special circumstances it may even be possible to add a third cap for a total of $1,500,000. This $500,000 cap will increase by $50,000 each year for 10 years and then increase by 2% annually thereafter.

A highly experienced wrongful death attorney can help you navigate the complexities of your individual case and ensure your family is protected and receiving the maximum benefit in accordance with new and existing laws.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit in which certain surviving heirs of the deceased can file a claim against another individual or entity whose negligent actions caused the death of their family member. The claim is intended to determine the responsibility of an individual or entity in the incident by presenting evidence that shows the death was caused by negligence, recklessness, or willful and wanton behavior of the wrongdoer.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim in California?

California law governs who can file a wrongful death lawsuit depending on their familial relationship to the victim. The following relationships have the right to take legal action on behalf of a deceased loved one:

  • Surviving spouses or registered domestic partners
  • Children
  • Grandchildren (only if the deceased person’s children are also deceased)
  • Other children (such as stepchildren) who were dependent on the deceased for at least 50% of their financial support
  • Successors of the deceased’s estate can also file a Survival Action

What is a Survival Action?

California offers multiple types of claims depending on the timing of an individual’s death due to negligence. The state will honor the existing lawsuits of individuals who obtained serious injuries from an accident and later succumbed to those injuries. While a wrongful death claim can be filed by the surviving family members of the victim, a Survival Action is the lawsuit that the deceased person would have been able to file had they survived their injuries. Survival actions can only be brought if the victim did not immediately die from their injuries and can also include any personal injury claims that were filed by the victim prior to their death. The damages sought in these claims may only be damages suffered by the victim prior to their death.

A Survival Action can be filed by the personal representative of the victim’s estate, once they complete an affidavit, and it can be consolidated with a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact a wrongful death attorney to learn more about the specifics of this unique California wrongful death law.

What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful death claims in California can include both economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages refer to direct financial costs that have been incurred as a result of an injury or death. These damages might include hospital bills, the cost of medication or care, the loss of employment or wages, or the cost of therapies and support as well as loss of future wages. Non-economic damages involve placing a value on the loss of the society comfort and protection of the deceased. Non-economic damages may include pain and suffering in the Survival Action. There are limits on what may be allowed as compensation in a California death case.

Each case is unique and requires an expert eye to help you and your family receive the maximum possible damages. An experienced attorney can help your family determine the appropriate damages for your case and ensure that they are factored into your lawsuit demands.

Contact Our California Wrongful Death Lawyers

Every day individuals are killed in accidents due to the negligent behavior of others, causing emotional pain, financial hardship, and uncertainty about the future. California laws allow surviving family members to pursue justice and closure by holding those responsible financially accountable for their actions.Car accidents,medical errors,workplace accidents, and trucking accidents are just a few examples of how negligence can quickly turn any situation deadly.

An experienced California attorney who specializes in wrongful death claims can help you review the specifics of your case, understand the proceedings of your case, and help you obtain the maximum possible damages as you recover and heal.

If a family member has been killed due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts of another person or company, the award-winning Bostwick & Peterson in San Francisco, California can help you and your family find closure and support.

Our experienced wrongful death attorneys have a team of experts who can evaluate your unique situation, conduct independent investigations, and build a strong case on behalf of your family. Contact our office today for a free evaluation of your case.