Dealing with a wrongful death claim can be a stressful, infuriating, and mournful situation that you may not have been prepared to deal with. You may be feeling somewhat isolated and angry at the world, almost betrayed. While no monetary figure can replace what you have lost, seeking compensatory damages for negligence can provide a sense of closure. You may be wondering what the average wrongful death settlement in California is.

Average Wrongful Death Settlement in California

What Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement in California?

Simply put, there is no average wrongful death settlement number. While wrongful death settlement amounts can fluctuate anywhere from several hundred thousand dollars to upwards of a million dollars, it all depends on the specific circumstances of each case. Every situation is different, which means that every case carries with it different means, motives, and circumstances. Just because one case settled in the millions, it does not mean that yours will.

Losing a loved one due to the negligence, intentional or otherwise, of another human being is tragic and heartbreaking. Wrongful death claims can emerge from any number of unfortunate situations, such as:

  • Exposure to dangerous chemicals
  • Medical malpractice
  • Criminal activity
  • Accidental negligence

How to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim

Proving that a wrongful death has taken place is not easy work. You, along with an experienced wrongful death lawyer, have to gather evidence of negligence, speak to witnesses, and establish certain criteria to move forward with the claim. Regardless of the circumstances, to prove wrongful death, you must prove the following as well:

  • Someone has unexpectedly died.
  • Their death was caused either by another person’s negligent behavior or their intent to harm.
  • The victim’s surviving loved ones are dealing with financial insecurity due to their loss.
  • The victim’s estate has appointed a personal representative to defend their interests.

Wrongful death claims are a form of personal injury claims. They are not intended to bring about any sort of criminal charge. Wrongful death claims are handled in civil court, with the ultimate goal being financial compensation. Since this is civil court and not criminal court, it is not necessary to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, the plaintiff need only prove the defendant’s liability through a “preponderance of evidence.”

A wrongful death claim may be brought about by the deceased’s surviving domestic partner, spouse, children, or grandchildren if the children are also deceased. If there are no surviving family members who can seek a claim, one may be brought about by anyone who would seek to inherit the deceased’s property or estate. This largely means the deceased’s parents or siblings.

Economic vs. Non-Economic Loss

In a wrongful death case, should the plaintiff successfully argue that negligent behavior had led to the victim’s wrongful death, damages will be awarded to compensate for the victim’s family’s economic and non-economic losses.

Economic losses can include:

  • Any financial help that the deceased would have been providing for the family
  • A loss of any gifts or benefits that the family was expecting to get from the deceased
  • Any funeral costs or burial expenses
  • A dollar value of any household services that the deceased would have provided

Non-economic losses can include:

  • A loss of love, happiness, protection, or societal support
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • A loss of consortium
  • A loss of guidance


Q: What Is the Cap on Wrongful Death Damages in California?

A: Generally, there is no cap on wrongful death damages in California. The only exception is medical malpractice cases, in which case the cap on wrongful death damages is around $500,000. Other than that, wrongful death damages are decided by a jury, who determines the amount based on the evidence at hand, with the assumption that the awarded amount will be fair and reasonable based on the presented evidence.

Q: How Much Can You Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death in California?

A: In California, you can sue a hospital for wrongful death and receive unlimited economic damages, but non-economic damages are capped at $500,000 for medical malpractice as of legislation signed into law in 2022. However, you must prove that the negligent behavior of the doctors and/or nurses was the cause of the death in question. If these medical providers did everything in their power to save your loved one, it can be difficult to prove their culpability in a wrongful death claim.

Q: Do You Have to Pay Taxes on a Wrongful Death Settlement in California?

A: Typically, you do not have to pay taxes on a wrongful death settlement in California. A wrongful death settlement is not considered taxable earnings under federal law. However, there may be cases where a jury decides to award you punitive damages as part of your compensation package.

Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for outrageous or cruel behavior, and this form of compensation is taxable under federal law. Punitive damages are typically only awarded if the defendant is found to be intentionally malicious.

Q: How Do You Divide a Wrongful Death Settlement in California?

A: Typically, a wrongful death settlement is divided equally in California. The funds are distributed among all the beneficiaries who pursued the claim. It is not unheard of to give a larger amount to the victim’s surviving spouse or children while the rest of the claimants divide what is left among themselves. It is ultimately up to you to decide how to split up the settlement amount among the relevant parties. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

Reach Out to a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

Facing the reality of a wrongful death claim can be a daunting task. Thankfully, you do not have to go about it alone. The legal team at Easton & Easton is here to help. We can provide sound legal counsel, a listening ear, and consistent advocacy for your situation. Our firm can handle the details of your case, allowing you more time to mourn in your own way. Contact us to schedule a consultation after a wrongful death has taken place.