California has allowed victims’ pain and suffering damages to die with them for decades. In other words, California has long barred surviving family members from obtaining pain and suffering damages. Usually, pain and suffering damages are the greatest sum of money at stake in a civil suit. For a very long time, California law limited the damages that surviving family members could recover to the loss or damage that the decedent incurred before their death, including punitive damages that the decedent could have been entitled to recover if they had lived.
Finally, in January 2022, amendments to the California law that long barred surviving family members from recovering pain and suffering damages went into effect. California’s new law now allows surviving family members to recover pain and suffering damages on behalf of their deceased loved ones. Senate Bill No. 447 (SB 447) increased the number of payable damages to include pain and suffering damages.
Before the passing of SB 447, liable parties used to take advantage of the fact that surviving family members could not recover pain and suffering damages, which often resulted in multi-million-dollar payouts. When companies and individuals were sued, they used to drag out the trial, hoping that the plaintiff would die, allowing them to save money. To some, the previous California law rewarded companies and individuals for bad behavior (prolonging court procedures). Hopefully, SB 447 will end the injustice by allowing family members to pursue suffering damages even if their loved one dies before their claims are resolved.