Can You Recover Punitive Damages In A Wrongful Death Claim

By February 28, 2017Wrongful Death

There is nothing more shocking than losing a loved one in an accident caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another. Not only is death a very emotional occurrence to process, but it can also lead to a number of questions with elusive answers, including: What happens next?

While nothing can restore a loved one to you once they have passed, filing a wrongful death claim for damages can help your family recover the financial compensation that they need. One type of damages that may be recoverable in a wrongful death action are punitive damages, with certain exceptions.

Punitive Damages Are Not Typically Allowed in Wrongful Death Actions

Punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, are a type of damages in a civil suit that is intended to punish the defendant rather than compensate the plaintiff. In a standard personal injury action, these types of damages are permitted when the defendant committed the wrongful act out of malice, oppression, or fraud. However, in wrongful death actions, punitive damages are almost never recoverable. There are two exceptions to this:

  • Homicide based on a felony. The first exception to this rule is in the event that the death of the decedent was the result of a homicide for which the defendant has been convicted of a felony charge. For example, if a person was driving their vehicle while intoxicated and killed the decedent (on whose behalf the wrongful death action has been filed), and then pled guilty to a felony charge, the plaintiff could recover punitive damages. This is found in section 3294 of California Civil Code.
  • If the injured person did not die immediately. The second exception to the law which bars the recovery of punitive damages in a wrongful death action is in the case that a wrongful death survivorship action has been filed and the decedent did not die instantly after sustaining their fatal injuries. A survival action can only be brought when the decedent did not die immediately and allows for exemplary damages. Case law supports this – see Ford Motor Co. v. Superior Court (1981) 120 Cal.App.3d 748, 751.

Our Law Firm Is Here for You

Understanding what punitive damages are and when they are recoverable in a wrongful death action can be overwhelming, and when you are coping with the loss of your family member, the technicalities of the law are the last thing you need to worry about. When you hire our Ventura, California wrongful death and injury case attorneys at the Quirk Law Firm, we will support you and guide you through the entire civil process. Injury attorney Trevor Quirk will work hard for you and your family and improve your chances of recovering your maximum compensation amount in a wrongful death claim, including punitive damages when allowable.

To schedule your free consultation with Ventura wrongful death attorney Trevor Quirk today, call our law offices now: 805-650-7778. Our job is to provide you with the legal support you need during this difficult time.

This Blog Was Provided By:

Quirk Law Firm, LLP

4222 Market Street, Suite C
Ventura, California 93003

Phone: 805-650-7778