Several clients have come to us here at McKnight, McKnight, McKnight & McKnight, Attorneys at Law after having lost loved ones in Kern County prepared to punish those deemed responsible through a wrongful death lawsuit, only to discover that there are limits to the damages that one can collect through such action. There are, however, other options that you can pursue if you are in the same position and you would like to see those liable have to face some punitive action.
Wrongful death lawsuits allow you (through your loved one’s personal representative) to collect damages to cover his or her funeral costs, the loss of his or her financial support, and any loss of companionship, counsel or intimacy you or others looked for him or her to provide. Notice how no mention was made of punitive damages. That is because California law does not allow such damages to be awarded in wrongful death settlements.
According to Section 377.30 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, you can initiate what is known as a survival action. The principle behind a survival action is that any cause of action your loved one had against another liable for an accident he or she suffered survives his or her death. In other words, if your loved one planned to sue after his or her accident, yet he or she dies before that is possible, you (provided are a successor in interest to his estate), can continue that action. A survival action would allow you to seek any punitive damages your loved one may have been entitled to had he or she lived.
More information on pursuing legal action following the death of a loved one can be found here on our site.