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Non-economic Damages

Non-Economic Damages in wrongful death cases


What are Non-economic Damages and How Can Your Attorney Obtain Them in Your Wrongful Death Case

In a California wrongful death case, a distinction exists between economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refers to compensation for those actual losses and expenditures suffered by the plaintiffs. In other words, economic damages are those losses that can be established with a reasonable degree of certainty using receipts, bills, time and wage statements, and other such objective evidence. For example, funeral expenses and burial costs are common examples of economic damages. Non-economic damages, by contrast, are meant to compensate the plaintiffs for those losses that cannot be easily quantified. For example, loss of consortium – the loss of the deceased’s presence and company – is an example of non-economic damages. How is a wrongful death attorney able to help you establish a figure for your non-economic damages and (more importantly) prove that this amount is what is fair and just in your wrongful death case?

Defense Attorneys Try to Minimize Your Non-economic Loss

A common tactic of many defense attorneys in wrongful death cases is to attempt to minimize your non-economic losses through phrases and arguments such as:

  • “No amount of money will bring your loved one back from the dead;”
  • “Non-economic damages add insult to injury and are an abuse of the judicial system;”
  • “By seeking non-economic damages, you are attempting to profit off of your loved one’s loss.”

While there may be some truth in these arguments, the truth is that not having the deceased around hurts – and this is a hurt for which the law permits you to seek compensation. But in today’s society, where increasing numbers of people view large jury awards and settlements with some degree of disapproval, these arguments may be readily accepted by jurors in your wrongful death case. It is important that you and your attorney take affirmative action to protect your ability to pursue non-economic damages.

What Can I Do To Increase My Likelihood of Recovering Non-economic Damages?

You and your attorney can take several actions throughout the preparation and presentation of your wrongful death lawsuit to increase the likelihood of obtaining non-economic damages. These include:

  • Thinking of specific examples: Simply stating the deceased is no longer around and that you miss him or her does not convey the gravity of the loss you and your family have experienced. Think of specific activities in which you and the deceased engaged that you are no longer able to engage in, like a favorite sport or hobby you shared with the deceased, a weekly night out, or the presence of that person to help calm your children during a thunderstorm. The mores specific you get, the more impact your statements in and out of court can have. Consider collecting photographs, writings, trophies, and other personal mementos and having these available for trial.
  • Consider enlisting members of the community: If there are members of the community who had a relationship with the deceased, consider asking them to be available to be deposed, to give statements, or to testify at trial about their specific memories of the deceased and the activities they will no longer engage in with the deceased. This helps not only humanize the deceased but also provide some corroboration for your own statements concerning your losses.
  • Emphasizing the traits of the deceased regularly throughout trial: Your attorney should take advantage of opportunities to describe the deceased as a person throughout the trial. By the end of your wrongful death trial, the jury should be able to appreciate the deceased as a person and better understand your loss.
  • Reframing the purpose for non-economic damages: Finally, your attorney should refute any suggestion that your pursuit of non-economic damages is somehow motivated by a desire to profit off of the deceased’s death or that you are asking the jury to feel sorry for you. Your attorney may be able to describe non-economic damages as a debt owed by the defendant that you are attempting to collect. This makes it less likely that the jury will view you in a negative light for seeking non-economic damages.

If a loved one has been killed by another’s negligent or by their reckless behavior, call 916-921-6400 for a free consultation. My name is Ed Smith. I am a Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer since 1982. Give me a call for free, friendly advice at 916-921-6400 or toll free at 800-404-5400.

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Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia (Public Domain) Commons 



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