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California Expands Recoverable Damages in Wrongful Death Suits

01.03.22 | INSIGHTS

By Summer M. Smith
Of Counsel, San Francisco Office, 415.352.2718

Until now, California law did not allow for the recovery of damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement in wrongful death actions. Effective January 1, 2022, that changed. Now, those damages are recoverable in newly filed actions and in any action granted a preference for trial before January 1st.

The right to sue for wrongful death in California is governed by statute. During last year’s legislative session, California modified Code of Civil Procedure § 377.34 to increase the scope of recoverable damages. Now, damages for the decedent’s pre-death pain, suffering, or disfigurement are recoverable, but not in all wrongful death lawsuits. The amendment to the statute applies only to suits filed after January 1, 2022, and before January 1, 2026, or to suits in which trial preference was granted before January 1, 2002. Trial preference is available on motion to parties over 70 years old, and in wrongful death and personal injury cases, where the moving party is under 14 years of age.

We expect that plaintiffs’ lawyers who could afford to wait to file wrongful death actions until after January 1 will now be filing those cases they otherwise would have filed last fall.

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