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Governor Newsom Signs SB 447 to Allow Non-Economic Damages to Survive Death

man signing law on desk

When a personal injury plaintiff endures pain and suffering because of what the defendant did, they can demand non-economic damages related to that pain. However, in California, Florida, Idaho, and Colorado, those non-economic damages disappear and cannot be claimed if the plaintiff passes away before their case concludes, either through a settlement or a verdict. The sudden erasure of those pain and suffering damages has never been fair to surviving family members, who often feel like the law is denying that their loved one ever suffered at all.

To catch California’s laws up to the vast majority of other states, Governor Newsom recently signed the Consumer Attorneys of California-sponsored Senate Bill 447 (SB 447 Laird). With his signature, surviving family members will soon be able to seek financial compensation for their late loved ones’ pain and suffering, validating all they have been through and endured.

The new provisions of SB 447 will apply:

  • If the action was granted a preference pursuant to Section 36 before January 1st, 2022; or,
  • Was filed on or after January 1st, 2022, and before January 1st, 2026.

If you have a case involving a plaintiff that is eligible for a Section 36 preference, you may want to apply for the preference as soon as possible, so that it is granted before January 1st, 2022. If you have a case that can wait to be filed until after that date, you should evaluate that option.

How Much is Pain & Suffering Worth?

It is not unusual for pain and suffering damages to be the largest sources of compensation in a personal injury case or wrongful death case in the states that allow these postmortem non-economic damages. To calculate pain and suffering damages, the methodology often involves totaling all economic damages – medical costs, lost wages, etc. – and multiplying it. The multiplicative factor increases based on the perceived severity of the decedent’s pain and suffering.

With California’s legal update made possible through SB 447, it is possible that eligible past plaintiffs and those who file in the future could be owed millions of dollars worth of compensation. Previously, all of that owed compensation would have just dropped off and become irretrievable the moment a plaintiff passed away.

More Information About SB 447

A few notes about the bill you should know:

  • It does not impact elder abuse (EADACPA) cases, which permit for pre-death pain and suffering damages up to $250,000 in enhanced remedies action. It will, however, cover other forms of elder abuse like health and safety violations, just not EADACPA actions.
  • Our attorneys from Omega Law Group Injury & Accident Attorneys successfully fought to maintain medical malpractice actions in the bill, as the California Medical Association and insurers fought hard for a carve-out. However, the MICRA cap will still apply to any pain and suffering damages that are recovered in a medical malpractice action.
  • All other personal injury, employment, civil, etc. cases are covered by the bill.
  • The bill will expire in four years unless extended by a legislative amendment.

Do you have questions about SB 447 and how it might affect a personal injury claim you have filed or want to file? If you live in California, then please call (310) 504-1852 or contact us online.

Continued Reading

“SB-447 Civil actions: decedent’s cause of action.” – California Legislative Information

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