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New California Law Authorizes Pain and Suffering Damages in Wrongful Death Cases for a Limited Time

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Personal injury law in California has recently undergone a significant transformation with the passage of Senate Bill 447 (SB447) in 2021. This legislative change directly amends the California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) 377.34, reshaping how damages are awarded in personal injury cases involving wrongful death. Read on to learn about the significant ramifications of this change in the law for accident victims and their families. If you have suffered a serious injury in a motor vehicle accident or other incident in Southern California, or if you lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, call Machtinger Law, APC in Los Angeles to discuss your case with an experienced and successful California personal injury and wrongful death lawyer.

The Pre-SB447 Scenario

Before SB447, under CCP 377.34, plaintiffs in personal injury cases were not entitled to claim damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement if they passed away before the lawsuit was resolved or if a wrongful death claim was initiated by the decedent’s personal representative. This limitation often resulted in reduced compensation for the estate and beneficiaries of deceased plaintiffs, as only pecuniary losses like medical expenses and lost income were recoverable.

The Introduction of SB447

SB447, signed into law in 2021 and effective starting January 1, 2022, brought about a notable shift. This bill was introduced to address the perceived unfairness in the existing law, particularly in cases where the plaintiff’s death was imminent due to the injury itself.

Key changes brought about by SB447 include:

  1. Recovery of Non-Economic Damages: The most significant change is that the estates of deceased plaintiffs can now recover non-economic damages such as pain, suffering, or disfigurement in personal injury and wrongful death cases. This amendment applies to claims arising out of fatal accidents or if the plaintiff dies after the lawsuit is filed but before a judgment is awarded.

  2. Time-Limited Provision: Initially, this change is a pilot provision, set to expire on January 1, 2026, unless further legislative action extends it.

  3. Applicability: It’s important to note that this amendment applies to causes of action accruing on or after January 1, 2022. Cases that originated before this date are not affected by SB447.

Implications for Plaintiffs in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims in California

SB447 empowers the estates of deceased accident victims to seek a more comprehensive range of damages, ensuring that their pain and suffering are acknowledged financially, even if the plaintiff does not survive until the end of the litigation process.

For legal practitioners, this change necessitates a strategic reevaluation of how personal injury cases are approached, particularly in situations where the plaintiff’s health is deteriorating rapidly. The potential for recovering non-economic damages posthumously may influence decisions related to the timing of filing lawsuits and negotiation tactics with opposing parties.

Navigating these changes underscores the importance of having knowledgeable legal guidance. Plaintiffs and their families must seek representation from attorneys well-versed in the latest legal developments, ensuring their rights are fully protected under the new legislative framework.

Maximize Your Recovery With the Help of a Skilled and Knowledge California Injury Attorney

The passage of SB447 marks a significant development in California’s personal injury law, offering a new avenue for justice for deceased plaintiffs and their families. The amendment to CCP 377.34 reflects a more compassionate approach to personal injury law, recognizing the full spectrum of suffering endured by victims.

For individuals navigating the complexities of personal injury and wrongful death cases in California, it’s crucial to consult with a law firm that stays at the forefront of legislative changes. Our team is committed to providing expert legal advice and representation in light of the recent changes brought by SB447. Contact us to learn more about how these developments may impact your case. Call Machtinger Law APC at 310-943-9300 for a no-cost case evaluation and to find out how we can help.

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