What is California Code of Civil Procedure 377.34?
In the past, California was one of a small handful of states that did not allow for the financial recovery for pain and suffering endured by an injured victim before their death. Survival actions did not allow for compensation for any anguish or disfigurement from the decedent. The laws have changed in recent years under Governor Gavin Newsom. Now, damages can be awarded for pain and suffering in a survival action brought by the deceased’s heirs or representatives.
California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) Section 377.34 has been altered with the passing of AB 447.
Prior to the passing of the law AB 447, several family members of the recently deceased were forced to take their survival actions to court in pursuit of compensation before their loved one’s passing. This was unfair to the loved ones as it required them to fight unnecessary legal battles to get the financial help they deserved. The new law recognizes this unfairness and grants these survivors an opportunity to pursue damages without seeking preferential trial settings.
How Might Recent Changes to the Long-Standing Law Affect Your Wrongful Death Case?
In previous years, CCP 377.34 did not allow for the recovery of a settlement for economic or non-economic damages suffered by the deceased prior to their impending death. This meant that a survival action could not cover any pain and suffering endured by the deceased before their impending death. In some cases, the recently deceased’s legal representatives or surviving spouse may recover compensation in a wrongful death claim, which required more work.
Today, the law is different. Suppose you lost a loved one in an accident or an act of malice, and they suffered from pain, emotional distress, or disfigurement before their ultimate passing. In that case, you may be able to recover compensation for those damages. This new version of the law remains in effect from January 1st, 2026.
How to Submit Documents Related to the Financial Recovery for Pain and Suffering Damages?
CCP Section 377.34 requires that the surviving heir, spouse, or representative submit all relevant information within 60 days of receiving a judgment or settlement in their case. If the surviving family member wishes – and it is recommended that they do – they can have professional legal counsel submit the relevant documents in their stead.
Necessary documentation includes a copy of the court judgment, consent judgment, or court-approved settlement agreement. Also essential is a cover sheet detailing the filing date, the date of the final disposition of the survival action, and the amount of damages awarded, whether they be economic or non-economic damages.
These documents can be submitted online or by mail to the Judicial Council of California.
What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action?
A wrongful death claim allows the surviving loved ones of a decedent to file a lawsuit against liable parties to hold them accountable for the unfortunate passing of their family member. Wrongful death lawsuits could potentially recover compensation for emotional distress, lost income, funeral costs, burial expenses, medical bills, and pain and suffering. These damages compensate a surviving loved one for losses incurred after death.
A survival action, meanwhile, covers damages incurred during the window of time between the accident and the passing of the victim. Previously, a survival action did not occur in tandem with a wrongful death claim. Now, survival actions often work in tandem with wrongful death claims, but they work to address different periods of time during the pain suffered and the tragic loss of life.
Survival actions and wrongful death claims can be filed separately or combined into one lawsuit. To ensure you’re filing your claims properly, contact the personal injury attorneys of our law firm for a free case review.
Who Recovers the Damages Awarded in a Survival Action?
Even if a single representative files the survival action, they are doing so on behalf of the deceased’s estate and its beneficiaries. If their lawsuit succeeds, any potential damages will pass to the decedent’s successors and heirs as defined by or named in their estate plan.
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If your spouse was in a motor vehicle accident and horrifically injured before succumbing to their wounds later, you have the right to file a survival action to recover damages from the at-fault party. Previously, the old law did not allow a survival action to recover non-economic damages. The new law states that it will enable an estate to recover compensation for ‘pain, suffering, and disfigurement’ incurred before death. This is a big win for accident victims and their families, as it removes the cruel roadblock that had stood in the way of many estates deserving of compensation for pain and suffering caused by at-fault parties.
To discuss your wrongful death and survival action lawsuit in more detail, you are encouraged to get in contact with our law firm. The Law Office of Daniel Deng has years of experience representing clients and their families in hard-fought personal injury cases and wrongful death claims. While every case is unique, we have the knowledge and experience to feel confident that we can provide you with the winning legal representation you deserve in order to get through these difficult times.
To schedule a free consultation, please call or text our Rosemead-based law offices at 626-280-6000.