| Read Time: 4 minutes | Personal Injury
Personal Injury vs. Wrongful Death | Key Differences You Should Know

Accident victims and their loved ones often experience medical, financial, and collateral consequences following their injuries.

Depending on the unique facts and circumstances of the case, California law provides recourse to individuals who have experienced damages and losses due to another’s negligence.

While the state’s negligence laws broadly govern these cases, the right path to relief depends on the type of injuries the victim experienced and the specific conduct of the at-fault party. 

California’s personal injury or wrongful death laws may apply in these cases. Although there is an overlap between personal injury and wrongful death in California, there are key distinctions that accident victims should know.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or died in an accident, contact Weinberg Law Offices at 818-341-9476 to discuss your wrongful death personal injury claim with an experienced attorney. 

Personal Injury vs. Wrongful Death

There are several similarities between a personal injury lawsuit and a wrongful death lawsuit. Principally, both these claims fall under California’s tort laws and can involve the same types of accidents. However, there are differences between the claims in who is able to file and the types of damages they can recover.

Understanding the nuances between the two types of claims is crucial to securing maximum compensation from the individual or entity that caused the victim’s injuries or death. 

What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury claim stems from one person’s negligent or intentional acts causing another person harm. The injury victim must prove that the other party breached a duty of care owed to the victim and that because of that breach, the victim suffered tangible losses or injuries.

Is Wrongful Death a Personal Injury? 

Wrongful death is a type of personal injury case. California’s wrongful death statute allows surviving family members or an estate to sue for damages when a person dies because of another’s wrongful act. 

Overlap Between Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Claims

In California, wrongful death claimants and personal injury claimants both must establish the same basic elements, which include the following:

  • The at-fault party owed a duty of care;
  • The at-fault party breached the duty of care; and
  • The breach caused the plaintiff to suffer injury. 

Further, wrongful death and personal injury can stem from various types of accidents, including the following:

  • Amusement park injuries,
  • Auto accidents,
  • Birth injuries,
  • Boating accidents,
  • Medical malpractice, 
  • Premises liability, and
  • Slip-and-fall incidents.

In any of these cases, plaintiffs can recover damages for the unique losses they experienced because of the at-fault party’s negligence, recklessness, or other wrongful conduct. 

Essential Differences: Personal Injury vs. Wrongful Death

The key differences between California’s personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits involve the identity of the plaintiff and the recoverable damages. 

Who Are the Plaintiffs in Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Personal Injury Lawsuits?

The plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit is the living injury victim. They file a lawsuit on their own behalf. In limited circumstances, others may also have the right to bring a claim on their own behalf, such as a spouse for loss of consortium or a bystander for emotional distress.

The plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit, on the other hand, are the close family members of the person who died or the representative of their estate. The plaintiffs in a California wrongful death lawsuit, in order of priority, are the following:

  • Surviving spouse of the decedent,
  • Decedent’s surviving child or children,
  • Dependent minors living in the household,
  • Parents of the decedent,
  • Other heirs, or
  • Next of kin.

Alternatively, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file a claim on behalf of these individuals. In many cases, numerous parties are eligible to file a California wrongful death lawsuit. In these situations, it may make sense to have a personal representative of the decedent’s estate file a single action.

Damages in Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Lawsuits 

Generally, recoverable damages in personal injury lawsuits include things like:

  • Medical expenses,
  • Lost past and future income,
  • Pain and suffering, 
  • Lost enjoyment of life, and
  • In very limited circumstances, punitive damages.

On the other hand, wrongful death claims involve compensation for the loved ones’ damages like:

  • The loss of financial support the decedent would have provided;
  • The value of gifts or benefits that the claimant would have likely received from the decedent;
  • Funeral and burial service costs; 
  • The monetary value of household services that the deceased would have provided;
  • Loss of the loved one’s affection, company, care, help, protection, and emotional support;
  • Loss of consortium for surviving spouses or domestic partners; and 
  • Loss of the decedent’s guidance. 

It is important to note that California maintains a separate statute for survivor actions. A survivor action is a claim to compensate the estate for losses the decedent suffered before their death.

Therefore, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced California personal injury and wrongful death lawyer to identify the full scope of your damages. That way, at the conclusion of your case, you can rest assured knowing that you recovered what you were entitled to—and nothing less. 

Speak with an Experienced California Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you recently lost a loved one in a tragic accident, your family may be entitled to significant compensation. At Weinberg Law Offices, we have assembled a dedicated team of injury lawyers who are committed to pursuing justice on behalf of grieving families.

We recognize the challenges that your family is experiencing during this difficult time and strive to make the recovery process as easy on you as possible. 

To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, contact us by calling 866-341-9476. You can also connect with us through our online contact form.

We accept all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, meaning we will not bill you for our services unless we can recover compensation.

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As a personal injury attorney, my mantra is that there is no such thing as a “small case”. I will give 100% matter how big or small a case may be. I am fluent in English, Hebrew, and Spanish, languages which I use regularly in my practice.

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