What kind of damages result in wrongful death claims and are funeral expenses covered? In wrongful death claims, the damages that can be recovered are categorized as economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to such losses which can be calculated and a specific dollar amount can be assigned to them. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are the intangible losses suffered, such as pain and suffering.
Under California laws, it is possible to recover funeral and burial expenses as a part of the economic damages in a wrongful death claim. It is important to understand precisely what the law means by ‘funeral and burial’ and how the amount of such damages is calculated.
Funeral and Burial
For the sake of legal claims, funeral and burial are clearly defined as the following two activities:
- A funeral service organized in the memory of the deceased
- Burial services which are aimed at suitably disposing of the body of the deceased
These two activities are primarily considered when determining the funeral and burial expenses in a wrongful death claim.
California laws do not place a cap on the maximum amount of funeral and burial expenses that can be recovered. However, the law does stipulate that the amount of damages claimed in lieu of these expenses must be reasonable.
What is a Reasonable Amount of Damages?
There is no rule-of-thumb to determine what a reasonable amount of damages is. Typically, a number of factors are considered for the purpose. When it comes to funeral and burial expenses, a reasonable amount of damages typically depends on two factors:
- The deceased person’s station in life. This refers to the financial and social standing of the deceased while he or she lived. For instance, if the deceased was a public figure, it is to be expected that the funeral service includes a greater number of people. Likewise, the funeral service of a notable business person would likewise be expected to incur more costs. These aspects are considered when determining what a suitable amount of funeral and burial costs would be for a deceased person.
- The estate’s financial condition. The size of the deceased person’s estate is also considered in determining what a reasonable expense would be for the funeral and burial service. If the size of the estate is small, the law expects the funeral and burial expense to be likewise small. If the estate has good finances, a larger funeral service seems reasonable and viable.
The two factors listed above are mainly considered in determining a fair dollar value for the funeral and burial costs in any wrongful death claim.
Who Can Collect Funeral and Burial Expenses?
When paying out the funeral and burial expenses, the first thing that is determined is to see who actually paid for these expenses. Were these expenses borne by a particular heir, several relatives collectively, or the estate of the deceased?
Typically, the funeral and burial expenses are received by the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased, whichever turns out to be the primary dependent. However, it is not uncommon for the estate of the deceased to pay for these expenses – the damages are then paid into the estate which disburses them among the legal heirs.
It is even possible for a third-party to pay for these expenses. For instance, if you paid for the funeral and burial expenses of the deceased while you weren’t an heir, a relative, or a representative of the estate, you are also eligible for receiving damages to recover these expenses.
Choosing Between a Lump-Sum or Structured Settlement
When you are seeking a settlement in a wrongful death claim, the insurance company may offer you a structured settlement or a lump-sum settlement. In a lump-sum settlement, you receive the full amount of the recoverable damages all at once. A structured settlement, on the other hand, allows you to recover damages in an agreed-upon schedule of installments. Both have their pros and cons, and you would want to consult a reliable lawyer before choosing between the two.
Contact an Irvine Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you have lost a dear one in a wrongful death incident, it is important to get professional legal help. Here at the Crockett Law Group, we have reached sizable settlements in a large number of wrongful death cases. Our attorneys aim at helping you get the maximum amount of damages for losing a loved one. We also take your case to trial if needed. Reach out to us for a free session with our lawyers.