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New bill revives damages in California wrongful death cases

Wrongful Death

Losing a loved one to a wrongful death is one of the most painful experiences imaginable. Previously, California did not allow the surviving loved ones of a deceased person to recover damages from the decedent’s pain or suffering. A new bill signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, however, changes this.

Pain, suffering and a new law

On October 1, Gov. Newsom signed Senate Bill 447 into effect. Under S.B. 447, the relatives of someone killed in a wrongful death accident have the right to seek compensation for their deceased loved one’s pain, suffering and disfigurement. The previous law did not allow courts to award compensation related to these damages The court could award compensation only for:

  • Injury
  • Burial expenses
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of enjoyment of intimacy
  • Loss of training and guidance
  • Loss of income

The new law will apply to all wrongful death actions filed after January 1, 2022, and to any wrongful death actions filed before January 1, 2022, that received a specified preference. However, S.B. 447 has a four-year sunset provision. This means that after January 1, 2026, legislators must renew the law or it will no longer have effect.

What this means for relatives and spouses

If you are the spouse or relative of someone who lost their life due to another party’s negligence, this law is to your benefit. It means that you have the right to hold the perpetrator accountable for the pain, suffering and disfigurement that the person you loved had to endure before their death.

Granted, the additional monetary compensation is nothing compared to your loved one’s life. However, it could go a long way toward preventing another wrongful death accident in California. When individuals, companies or other parties that would act negligently see that the state is serious about making them pay for the pain and suffering they inflicted, it is one more way to discourage them from doing it again.

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