In successful wrongful death lawsuits, courts can award both economic and noneconomic damages to plaintiffs. But while courts can easily compute monetary damages through medical bills, pay stubs and other proof of out-of-pocket expenses, noneconomic damages are usually more difficult to prove. Since these are intangible losses, noneconomic damages, such as loss of care and companionship, are measured differently.
The jury’s subjective computation
Technically, there is no set formula to measure noneconomic damages. California laws require the jury to use their best judgment to decide on a reasonable amount to cover these damages based on each case’s evidence and the jury’s common sense. They must determine the reasonable monetary value of the noneconomic damages while considering the following:
- The loss of love, companionship and comfort, among others
- The loss of training and guidance
- The loss of intimacy between the decedent and the surviving spouse
The jury must also be careful not to consider the following when making their calculation:
- The plaintiff’s mental anguish and emotional grief
- The plaintiff’s socioeconomic status, specifically their poverty or wealth
Initially, California does not allow the consideration of the decedent’s pain and suffering in awarding wrongful death damages. However, under the state’s new law, the decedent’s pain, suffering and disfigurement from the time of the accident to their death are now awardable, provided the plaintiff files the action within the limitation.
A challenging but possible feat
Establishing the depth of the plaintiff and decedent’s relationship is a significant factor in determining nonmonetary damages. This will demonstrate how much the death caused emotional harm to the plaintiff, including loss of love, support, comfort and companionship. While it is difficult, proving noneconomic damages and its extent is not impossible. Careful planning, thought and skill can help establish a stable wrongful death claim.