cap on wrongful death damages california

The pain of losing a loved one is profound, especially when the death results from another’s negligence or misconduct. In California, wrongful death claims provide survivors a legal route for seeking compensation. Recently, there have been significant changes in the law that affect these claims, particularly those involving medical malpractice and California wrongful death limits.


This blog post will explore the updated cap on wrongful death damages California, the types of damages available, and the implications of recent legislative changes.



Understanding California Wrongful Death Claims

A wrongful death in California is defined as one resulting from the wrongful act or negligence of another party. Survivors or a representative of the deceased’s estate can file a claim to recover damages that arise from the loss of their loved one by filing a wrongful death lawsuit or a compensation claim.


Eligible parties included in the payout distribution usually include surviving family members such as spouses, children, or parents, but it may also cover other dependents or individuals who suffer financially due to the death.

Types of Damages in Wrongful Death Cases

The cap on wrongful death damages California may be influenced by the the type of damages that can be recovered. Wrongful death claims in California can yield two main types of damages: economic and non-economic.

Economic Damages

These are quantifiable losses experienced by the survivors, such as:

  • Loss of financial support: Based on the deceased’s expected earnings until the presumed retirement age.
  • Loss of gifts or benefits: Includes benefits like tuition support that the deceased would likely have provided.
  • Funeral and burial expenses: Direct costs associated with funeral services and burial.
  • Household services: If the deceased managed essential household tasks, the cost to outsource these services can be claimed.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages compensate for intangible losses, including:

  • Loss of companionship and emotional support: This addresses the emotional impact of the decedent’s death in terms of presence and providing support.
  • Pain and suffering: Typically pursued in a “survival action” if the deceased did not die immediately from their injuries. Surviving loved ones or dependents may be able to file a wrongful death claim and obtain both economic and non-economic damages.

Recent Legislative Changes and Damage Caps
to Wrongful Death Settlements

recent legislative changes and damage caps to wrongful death settlements

AB 35: A Legislative Update

On May 23, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 35, marking a substantial update to the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).


Sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes and State Senator Tom Umberg, and backed by a coalition that included consumer groups and healthcare providers, this California law aimed to modernize how damages are awarded in medical malpractice cases.

Key Changes Under AB 35

  • Restructured Attorney Fees: The law modifies how attorney fees are structured, moving away from a system that ties fees to the recovery amount, to one based on the stage of the case when funds are recovered.
  • Increased Caps on Non-Economic Damages: For medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death, the non-economic damage cap will start at $500,000 and increase by $50,000 annually until it reaches $1 million. For other medical malpractice cases, the cap begins at $350,000 and will increase by $40,000 each year until it caps at $750,000.

Cap on Wrongful Death Damages California: Implications for Future Personal Injury Lawsuits and Claims

These changes, which apply to cases filed from January 1, 2023, forward, reflect an attempt to adjust for inflation and more accurately reflect the losses suffered by families in wrongful death cases. The incremental increases in the limit are designed to provide more fair compensation to victims and their families while maintaining a predictable structure for insurance and healthcare providers.


It’s important to note that such California wrongful death limits only apply to non-economic damages, which are more subjective in nature. Economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, are not subject to this cap and may still be awarded based on the individual circumstances of each case.

Maximize Your Claim for Damages in a California Wrongful Death Case.
Work With an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer.
Call RTM Law for a Free Consultation.

The recent changes to California’s wrongful death compensation laws mark a significant shift in how survivors can seek and receive damages. By understanding the cap on wrongful death damages California and other changes, families can better prepare their legal strategies with a clearer picture of the potential financial outcomes.


As these California wrongful death limits increase over time, they offer a path toward more adequate compensation for the immeasurable emotional and financial toll of losing a loved one due to negligence or malpractice.


For those dealing with a wrongful death claim in California, especially in light of recent legislative changes, expert legal advice is invaluable.


The skilled wrongful death attorneys at RTM Law Firm are prepared to help you secure the compensation and justice you are entitled to. To learn how these new laws might impact your case and to discuss your legal options, please contact our personal injury team today for a free consultation. No fees until we win.




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