Generally, if a party dies before judgment but after the jury’s verdict (or after the case has been submitted for trial in a nonjury trial), the court may still render judgment. The California Code of Civil Procedure states that:
“If a party dies after trial and submission of the case to a judge sitting without a jury for decision or after a verdict upon any issue of fact, and before judgment, the court may nevertheless render judgment thereon” (CCP § 669).
In this case, the judge may enter judgment nunc pro tunc or the date before the plaintiff’s death to preserve pain and suffering damages. Normally, the judgment must be entered within 24 hours after the jury verdict has been rendered, or upon the filing of the court’s decision in a nonjury trial.
CCP § 664
“When trial by jury has been had, judgment must be entered by the clerk, in conformity to the verdict within 24 hours after the rendition of the verdict, whether or not a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict be pending, unless the court order the case to be reserved for argument or further consideration, or grant a stay of proceedings.”
However, this is not automatic, as the counsel for the plaintiff, or a person who has control over the deceased person’s estate, still needs to request entry of judgment nunc pro tunc because the courts are not obliged to do so on its own. It should be noted that this action may only come from a person who has interest in the deceased-claimant’s estate.
In claiming damages for injury or death, it is always wise to work with a lawyer who is an expert in personal injury claims to make sure that the case will be handled competently.