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December 6, 2023

Average Wrongful Death Settlement in California (Calculate an Estimate Now)

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

Updated: 3/7/2024

Short answer: According to five California wrongful death law firms, the average wrongful death settlement in California commonly falls between $250,000 – $500,000. This number encompasses all wrongful death incidents together as opposed to separately. Below we’ve created an updated table detailing approximate wrongful death settlements by case type.

Average California Wrongful Death Settlement Amounts by Case Type

Case Type Average California Wrongful Death Settlement Amounts
Car Accidents Approximately: $250,000 – $750,000
Medical Malpractice Approximately: $250,000 – $500,000
Workplace Accidents Approximately: $750,000 – $1,250,000+
Bicycle and Pedestrian Accidents Approximately: $600,000 – $1,100,000
Slip and Fall Accidents Approximately: $250,000 – $500,000
Defective Products Approximately: $1,000,000 – $2,000,000+
Aviation Accidents Approximately: $2,000,000 – $3,000,000+
Boating Accidents Approximately: $500,000 – $1,000,000+
Poisoning Approximately: $750,000 – $1,250,000+
Nursing Home Neglect Approximately: $500,000 – $1,000,000+

While it is impossible to determine the average wrongful death settlement in California, certain details from your case can increase or decrease your final settlement amount. It’s very common for cases to settle for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. A highly skilled wrongful death attorney can assist you in accurately determining the value of your case.

California Wrongful Death Settlement Calculator

A death in the family is never easy. If you’d like to estimate what a wrongful death settlement could look like for you and your family, please fill out our free online calculator below. You can receive an estimate in roughly 90 seconds.


Wrongful Death Statistics

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), death from unintentional injuries is the fourth-leading cause of deaths in the United States alone. Every year, over 140,000 Americans are victims of accident-related deaths.  When someone dies as a result of another party’s negligence, recklessness, or other wrongdoing, it can leave their surviving family completely devastated and confused as to how to move forward.

After the death of a loved one, the last thing you probably want to do is think about legal matters, however, you should consider filing a wrongful death claim to help you recover some of the losses that you have sustained as a result.

If a loved one of yours was a victim of wrongful death anywhere in the LA region, we can connect you with some of the finest Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys today, at no cost to you. We can help you search for exceptional legal assistance in the LA region during this difficult time. Our member attorneys have the resources, expertise, and experience to secure you the compensation and justice that you deserve.

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How do Wrongful Death Claims Work?

A wrongful death action is considered a personal injury claim in the state of California according to California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 CCP. This permits the victim’s surviving family members to pursue financial compensation for the damages they have sustained as a result of the victim’s death.

Wrongful death lawsuits are often filed alongside survival actions. Survival actions are lawsuits that are intended to compensate for losses that the victim’s estate would have incurred had they survived the negligent and lethal act. The following damages may be recoverable in survival actions:

  • Medical expenses
  • The victim’s anticipated income
  • The victim’s household contributions
  • Property damage
  • Punitive damage

In the state of California, neither survival actions nor wrongful death claimants recover any compensation for the pain and suffering of the victim. When filed together, these claims can add up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Generally, certain loved ones of the victim can bring forth a claim if the victim’s death was the result of another party’s negligence, misconduct, or unlawful activity. The defending party may be a person or entity.

wrongful death lawsuit payout

Who can File a Claim?

Certain loved ones of a victim of wrongful death can file a claim. State law allows a victim’s spouse, domestic partner, children, or the grandchildren of a deceased child of the victim. If a person dies with no spouse, children, or descendants, their relatives or financial dependents may be eligible to file a lawsuit. Any recovery will be divided between these parties by the court.

What are some Example Cases?

The most common causes of wrongful death include:

  • Auto accidents: Traffic accidents produce the most cases of wrongful deaths. Speeding, reckless driving, distracted driving, and DUI are among the most common causes of motor vehicle accidents
  • Workplace accidents: Fatal accidents resulting from negligence or carelessness can occur at the workplace. Employers may be held liable for dangerous conditions or occupational hazards at work that resulted in the wrongful death
  • Medical Malpractice: This occurs when the improper or negligent care of a medical provider results in wrongful death. Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, surgical errors, untreated infections, emergency room negligence, and medication errors are some examples of fatal medical malpractice
  • Defective products: Manufacturers may be held liable in court for wrongful death that occurs from the correct use of a defective product
  • Intentional killings: Shootings, stabbings, and other violent actions can result in wrongful death. Criminal actions that cause a wrongful death can be tried in both civil and criminal courts

How are wrongful death cases calculated in California?

The following are factors that could increase your wrongful death settlement:

  • The victim’s children or dependents are young at their time of death
  • The victim was young at the time of their death
  • The value of the inheritances that the victim’s loved ones were likely to receive
  • The victim was of strong moral character

The following are factors that can decrease your wrongful death settlement:

  • The victim was retired or relatively old
  • The victim has few to no close family relationships
  • The victim had a criminal background

Punitive damages are rarely awarded in wrongful death cases; however, they may apply if the victim was killed intentionally and the person responsible was previously convicted of a felony.

What does a Settlement Check Cover?

A settlement checks covers the damages sustained following the death of the victim, both economic and non-economic. Some of these damages can include:

  • Burial expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of moral support suffered by the victim’s loved ones and family
  • Emotional anguish

No money can replace the presence of your loved one, however, the court will award additional compensation for the loss of love, affection, companionship and other non-economic damages. If the case is not settled before trial, then the jury will determine exactly how much these damages are worth.

How are wrongful death settlements distributed in California?

Once the settlement is approved, the settlement proceeds are distributed to the eligible beneficiaries according to the court’s order or the terms agreed upon in the settlement agreement.

wrongful death lawsuit settlements average

Should I Speak with any Insurance Companies?

We advise against speaking with an insurance company or signing any contracts until you have reviewed them carefully with an attorney. If you are already working with an attorney, redirect all communications from insurance companies to them. Insurance company adjusters know how to negotiate extremely well and may convince you to accept less than you deserve in compensation.

A wrongful death attorney highly skilled in settlement negotiation can help you obtain much more in compensation than what an insurance company may offer you or if you were to settle your claim on your own, even after paying your legal team. A wrongful death settlement is often worth far more than settlements offered directly by insurance companies.

Will my Case Have any Limitations?

The following are limitations you may face when pursuing a wrongful death claim:

  • Comparative fault: This component is factored in your case if the victim was partly at fault. The court will divide responsibility between two parties when both are at fault on a percentage basis
  • Insurance Policy Limits: There may be cases where the defendants do not have enough money to pay for their judgment. In California, drivers must carry a minimum of $15,000 in bodily liability insurance, which is not enough to pay most wrongful death claims. Commercial vehicle drivers and rideshare drivers are often well-insured
  • The quality of your legal assistance: A lawyer with a strong track record of settling wrongful death cases successfully is critical to maximize your wrongful death settlement. You will need the best legal representation available

How do you Prove Wrongful Death in California?

Before recovering any recovery for the death of a loved one, you and your legal team must prove that a wrongful death took place. Essentially, you must provide evidence that the negligence of a person or entity resulted in your loved one’s fatal injury. You are not required to prove that the defendant tried to intentionally injure or kill your loved one.

Wrongful death lawsuits aim to make a defendant accountable for a person’s death in civil court. These types of suits are not criminal; however, you may present both a civil wrongful death suit against the defendant at the same time as an ongoing criminal prosecution if there has been willful wrongdoing or a crime such as homicide.

What Evidence is Needed for My Case?

You must prove these elements in your wrongful death claim:

  1. A human being died
  2. The defendant had a duty of care to the deceased. The duty of care depends on the defendant’s role in the incident
  3. The defendant violated their duty of care. A part is “negligent” if the court can prove that the defending person or entity could have done something differently to prevent the death of the victim
  4. The victim’s death was caused by a breach of duty of care. You must demonstrate that the defendant’s negligence was the direct cause of the death of your loved one. Thorough investigation, eyewitness testimony, and expert testimony may be required to demonstrate this element

What are the Odds of Winning a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

There is no average for wrongful death settlements in California, which also makes it impossible to calculate the odds of winning your claim without speaking to an attorney experienced in personal injury or wrongful death cases. Wrongful death claims can be incredibly complex and not as cut and dry as they may appear.

You increase your odds of obtaining significant financial compensation for the loss of your loved one by working with a wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles with years of experience and outstanding negotiation skills. Although you do have some time following the death of a loved one to file a wrongful death claim. The closer you file your case to the date of death, the better your chances of winning.

Is a Wrongful Death Suit Worth It?

Yes, though your wrongful death lawsuit payout can never make up for the loss of a loved one, it can provide you with a significant source of financial relief that can help overcome some of the difficulties brought on by that loss. It is worth having a wrongful death attorney analyze your case to see what you may be eligible to receive in recovery.

The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in California is two years from the date of death. This means that you have two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death claim.

This period can be drastically reduced in certain cases. For example, you only have six months from the date of death to file a wrongful death suit against a county or state hospital. If you have a case against a government entity, you will want to speak with a reputable wrongful death attorney to confirm that you are eligible. The right attorney can save your family time, family, and additional stress.

Should I Hire a Lawyer?

If you wish to pursue financial compensation for the death of a loved one, then you will need the assistance of a highly reputable wrongful death attorney. Wrongful death claims are often very intricate, high-value cases that can be incredibly challenging to navigate on your own, especially after losing a loved one. To get the best results in your case, we highly recommend that you work with an experienced wrongful death attorney.

LawLinq can connect you with some of the best wrongful death firms in the LA region. Many of our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you pay nothing upfront as you overcome your loss. Even after covering your legal fees, your wrongful death settlement will offer you significant financial compensation, much more so than if you settle with an insurance company or if you attempt to take your case on by yourself. You can instead maximize your recovery by working with some of the best wrongful death attorneys in Los Angeles.

Our team is available to answer any questions you may have, and our services are completely free to you. Once you share details about your case with us, we will then match you with a wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles who can give you a case analysis, at no cost to you. LawLinq is committed to connecting you with the best representation available. Contact LawLinq today by giving us a call at 855-997-2558 or by filling out an online form on our site.

Additional Sources:


About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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