California has been one of the few states that don’t allow non-economic damages to be awarded in survival action claims. These are lawsuits brought by family members on behalf of their loved ones themselves for the kind of things they could have sued for had they lived. These often accompany a wrongful death claim, which is brought on behalf of the deceased person’s estate by the estate’s representative.
Last fall, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that allows non-economic damages to be awarded in wrongful death cases. The law, which took effect at the beginning of this year, allows compensation for things like pain and suffering experienced by a person before they died.
The damages can be sought by the personal representative of the person’s estate, their heirs or others with the right to bring a claim. The amount awarded typically depends on how long and how much the person suffered before they succumbed to their injury.
Law may or may not expire in 2026
The law, which currently is set to expire on Jan. 1, 2026, actually came about because of the significant delays faced by those bringing personal injury claims over the last couple of years as judges heard fewer cases and many courthouses were closed. Those behind the law contended that the plaintiffs in many cases passed away before their cases were heard, and there was currently no way under the law to recover money for their pain and suffering after they died.
The new law will likely cost California state agencies millions of dollars in additional payments to plaintiffs. However, there’s already talk about making the law permanent.
Certainly, no amount of money can replace a loved one who suffered and died due to the actions or negligence of someone else. However, it’s important to understand what options you have for seeking some amount of justice and compensation on their behalf.