Last year, only 11 days after having heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, actor Bill Paxton died from a stroke. His family recently filed a wrongful death claim against the hospital, alleging that Paxton’s surgeon performed “a high risk and unconventional surgical approach with which he lacked experience.” The family fully believes that had Paxton received adequate medical care his untimely death could have been prevented. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can allow the family to recover damages for the loss of their loved one.
Paxton was a very well-known actor and likely shouldered most of the family’s financial obligations. In the wake of his death, Paxton’s family may be struggling with money. If their wrongful death lawsuit is successful, they may be able to recover damages to compensate for the loss of Paxton’s income and support.
Family members who are harmed by the unexpected loss of a loved one may be entitled to damages when their loved one’s death is the result of another person’s negligence or wrongful conduct. Damages can compensate for direct financial costs (e.g., funeral and burial), indirect financial costs (e.g., lost contribution and services), and non-financial harms (e.g., pain and suffering). The value of the damages that are awarded will vary from case to case. Damages that are not linked to the family’s direct out-of-pocket expenses can be difficult to value.
In California, families may be entitled to recover monetary damages to make up for the financial contributions and servicesof their now-deceased loved one. How much can families recover? How is the value of those contributions and services calculated? Courts will consider a few different factors when making a decision.
Earnings: A court will review the victim’s income and earnings to gain a better understanding of the victim’s contributions to his family.
Life Expectancy: How much a family can recover in lost expected contributions will depend on how long the victim would have been expected to live, had the fatal accident never happened. The greater the life expectancy, the more a family will be able to recoup.
Health: The victim’s health prior to the accident will be an important factor in determining damages. If the victim was unhealthy, their ability to work and contribute to their family was likely diminished.
A judge and/or jury will balance all of these (and any other relevant) factors to calculate an appropriate value for these damages.
Courts in California have held that families can also recover monetary damages to make up for the loss of the society, comfort, and protection once provided by the victim. Families who want to recover these damages can present evidence to prove the closeness of their relationship with the victim and show how their lives have been changed by their sudden loss. Evidence should help to prove:
The closer the family, the more devastating the death. Damages awarded to the family can directly reflect the gravity of their loss.
Spouses (or partners) of a victim are also entitled to ask for damages to compensate for loss of consortium. This is a fancy way to say that their intimate and romantic relationship has been destroyed. In California, loss of consortium can include the loss of:
If you have recently lost a loved one in a Los Angeles accident you may be entitled to compensation. The money you recover from a wrongful death lawsuit can be incredibly helpful you as recover from your shocking loss. Contact Glotzer & Leib, LLP to request a free consultation and learn about how you can file a wrongful death claim. You have a limited amount of time to take legal action, so it is important to act quickly.
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