On October 1st, 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 447 into law. The bill allows heirs of a victim to pursue general damages (pain and suffering) through a survival action claim. While eligible family members have always been able to recover general damages for loss of companionship, guidance, and comfort through a wrongful death claim, general damages were previously not recoverable through a survival action claim.
In this article, our knowledgeable Oakland wrongful death attorneys at Bracamontes & Vlasak explain the key things to know about California’s expanding wrongful death damages.
Surviving Family Members Can Seek Compensation For Their Damages
In California, eligible loved ones of the victim have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party or parties responsible for a fatal accident. Through a wrongful death claim in California, survivors can seek compensation for their damages. In their wrongful death claim, the following can be included:
New Wrongful Death Law Allows for the Recovery of Non-Economic Damages of the Decedent
Not all accidents that prove to be fatal result in immediate death. When someone survives an accident but later passes away before their personal injury claim is resolved, their family has the right to continue pursuing that claim. This is known as a survival action.
Under California’s previous law, claimants could only seek economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc) through a survival action claim. They could not recover financial compensation for the decedent’s pain and suffering.
SB 447 reforms California’s wrongful death statute to allow surviving family members to seek compensation for non-economic damages sustained by the victim, including pain and suffering. For example, imagine that someone was severely injured in a car accident in Oakland. After two weeks, they tragically succumb to their injuries. California’s new wrongful death law allows their family to seek compensation for the pain and suffering the victim endured during that two-week period.
SB 447 Will Automatically Expires After Four Years (But May Be Made Permanent)
California’s law allowing for the expanded recovery of wrongful death damages officially took effect on January 1st, 2022. As currently drafted, the law will last until January 1st, 2026, at which time SB 447 is scheduled to expire. Before the law expires, California lawmakers will re-evaluate the law to determine if it should be made permanent or the state should revert to the previous system.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Bay Area Wrongful Death Attorney
At Bracamontes & Vlasak, our talented and experienced California wrongful death lawyers are devoted advocates for justice. If you lost a family member in an accident, we are here to help you navigate the claims process and secure as much compensation as possible from your claim. Give us a call now to arrange your free, confidential consultation.
Our law firm handles wrongful death claims throughout the Bay Area, including in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Palo Alto.