A New Law Enhances the Potential Recovery Options Available in a California Survival Action
Any time you lose a loved one, it's devastating. That devastation is often so much worse if you lost your loved one suddenly and unexpectedly due to the negligent actions or inaction of someone else. There's no way to put a price on your loss but that truth doesn't erase other financial realities, including that you probably have more bills and less income as a result of what has happened. A thoughtful and skillful Santa Barbara wrongful death lawyer can help you take the necessary legal steps to protect your rights as you deal with the pain of your loss.
Last August, the family of famed actor Bill Paxton ended their Los Angeles County wrongful death lawsuit, settling with a Southern California doctor and the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. The actor died after undergoing heart surgery intended to repair an aortic aneurysm. Earlier in 2022, the family settled with an anesthesiologist medical group for $1 million.
The actor's death and the litigation that followed are reminders that accidental death due to incidents of potential negligence occurs painfully frequently in California. Statistics show that, in 2020 alone, more than 4,000 Californians died just as a result of auto crashes, workplace accidents, or defective products. (Note that figure doesn't even include medical negligence like what the actor's family alleged.
If you lost your loved one as a result of negligent or reckless misconduct, you can pursue a civil wrongful death lawsuit, and the estate of your late loved one can pursue something called a "survival" action.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal action to hold the wrongdoers accountable for the losses the victim's family endured. A survival action is a lawsuit that pays compensation for the losses suffered by the late victim prior to his/her death and, now that a recent Senate Bill has become law, the options for recovering damages in this type of lawsuit will be greater than they were before.
Allowing for the Recovery of Noneconomic Damages
In the past, a survival action only allowed the deceased person's estate to recover what's called "economic" damages. That included tangible things like medical expenses, lost earnings, and property damage. Senate Bill 477 amended California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.34, which now says that a deceased person's estate can also pursue damages for noneconomic losses like the pain and suffering the deceased person endured before he/she died.
The revised section brings California in line with the vast majority of states, as only about five still do not allow recovery of pain-and-suffering damages on behalf of a person who ultimately dies from the injuries he/she sustained. The opportunity to recover pain-and-suffering damages will cover survival actions filed between Jan. 1, 2022, and Jan. 1, 2026.
Even before this bill became law, loved ones who brought wrongful death claims could pursue both economic and non-economic damages as part of their cases. These forms of damages potentially include economic harm like loss of the deceased person's financial support as well as the deceased's funeral/burial expenses. It also can include non-economic losses like loss of companionship or loss of consortium (if the plaintiff is a spouse or partner.)
The aftermath of losing a loved one suddenly (whether due to an auto accident, workplace injury, a dangerous product, or some other event fueled by negligence) is a uniquely challenging time. You need to grieve, but also need to recoup compensation for the financial harm you've encountered. The empathetic and diligent Santa Barbara personal injury attorneys at Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP have more than 75 years of combined experience helping families navigate this difficult period. As you work to heal your family after your incalculable loss, count on our team to work tirelessly to get you the justice you deserve. Contact us today at 805-617-1365 or through our website to get a free case consultation today.