Punitive Damages and Wrongful Death
Punitive Damages and Wrongful Death

There are two main types of damages a plaintiff can be awarded in a lawsuit: compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the damages. In the case of a wrongful death, these can include both economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages can include the decedent’s lost wages, hospital bills, funeral expenses, and other such costs. Noneconomic damages in a wrongful death claim can include loss of companionship, loss of physical support, and psychological pain and suffering.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are different in that they do not compensate the plaintiff for specific damages. Instead, these damages are given out as punishment for the defendant in the case of particularly abhorrent actions. Punitive damages are often awarded in cases where the defendant was willfully and knowledgeably negligent or reckless.

Punitive Damages Can be Awarded in Survivor Action

Under California law, however, the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit cannot recover punitive damages, no matter how malicious the actions of the defendant. The only way to recover punitive damages in a wrongful death scenario is to file a survivor action, as opposed to a wrongful death claim. A claimant can only file a survivor action if the decedent suffered economic loss before death. This might apply to a case in which the decedent did not die immediately after sustaining their illness or injury.

One exception is if the wrongful death was the result of a homicide, in which the defendant has been convicted of a felony. In this scenario—for instance, if the victim was killed by a hit-and-run driver who was then convicted of a felony—the plaintiff could recover punitive damages in the wrongful death suit.

“Wrongful death lawsuits are often quite complicated. Working with an experienced wrongful death attorney can help take some of the pressure off the client who is coping with the loss of their loved one,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Wrongful Death Attorneys in the Coachella Valley

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have lost a loved one and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, El Centro, and Yucca Valley, and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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