On October 1, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed California Senate Bill No. 447 into law, which permits a deceased individual’s personal representatives or successors-in-interest to recover damages for the decedent’s pain, suffering, or disfigurement in a lawsuit. Prior to this law, those suing on behalf of a deceased individual were limited solely to damages for the decedent’s injuries and punitive damages, if warranted. They could not previously recover for the decedent’s pain and suffering.
The new law applies to actions that were granted a specified preference before January 1, 2022, and to future actions that are filed on or after January 1, 2022 and before January 1, 2026. Claimants who recover damages for a decedent’s pain, suffering, or disfigurement must submit a copy of the judgment or settlement to the Judicial Council of California within sixty days of obtaining that judgment or settlement. They must also submit a cover sheet detailing the date the action was filed, the date it ended, and the amount and type of damages awarded to them through the action.
In passing this new law, California joins forty-five other states in permitting personal representatives to recover damages for a decedent’s pain and suffering. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Idaho do not allow a deceased individual’s successors-in-interest to recover for the decedent’s pain and suffering.