Wrongful death and survival actions are a way for families to seek justice after the untimely death of a loved one that was caused by someone else. After a sudden and painful loss, these legal actions can help compensate a grieving family for the personal loss of a mother, father, spouse, or child, and make up for the loss of financial resources this person brought into their family.
Every state has wrongful death and survival statutes, allowing families to seek compensation in civil court. Although these causes of action are similar, there are some important differences between wrongful death and survival actions.
What’s a Wrongful Death Action?
A wrongful death claim is brought by a personal representative of a deceased person’s estate when that person dies as the result of negligence or another personal injury case. Wrongful death lawsuits stem from car crashes, including speeding and DUI cases, as well as medical malpractice claims. The deceased person’s surviving spouse, parents, or children have the right to act as a personal representative in these cases.
To win their wrongful death case, the personal representative must prove that the defendant caused their loved one’s death. If the personal representative is successful, they can win different types of damages.
Damages you can receive as part of a wrongful death case include:
- Reimbursement for any medical expenses the deceased person received between the defendant’s actions and the death, such as an ambulance ride after a car accident
- Funeral expenses
- Lost wages stemming from the untimely death
- Pain and suffering endured by surviving family members
- Loss of enjoyment and loss of consortium suffered by family members
Juries can also award punitive damages in wrongful death cases if the defendant acted particularly badly.
Wrongful death claims don’t need to be brought immediately after death, but you can’t wait too long to act. You may have as little as a year to file your claim; otherwise, it may be too late to get the compensation you deserve.
What’s a Survival Action?
A survival action has some important differences from a wrongful death case. This type of claim is meant to seek compensation for any pain and suffering the deceased would have been able to receive as a result of the defendant’s actions, had the victim survived.
If the victim survived after the defendant’s action, but then died, any pain and suffering experienced by the victim can be compensated by a survival action. As with wrongful death actions, each state has a requirement to bring a survival action within a certain amount of time.
Let’s look at an example of how these two claims can work together.
Eric drinks too much at a party, then decides to drive home. He is well above the legal limit, runs a red light, and hits Nicole’s car. If Nicole dies immediately in the crash, her family can bring a wrongful death action against Eric but they can’t bring a survival action because she didn’t suffer as a result of his actions.
However, if Nicole survives the crash, but dies the next day in the hospital, the executor of her estate can file a survival action against Eric seeking compensation for the pain and suffering she experienced between the accident and her death. Her representative can also bring a wrongful death claim to cover funeral expenses, medical expenses, lost wages, and her pain and suffering as the result of losing a loved one.
Working with Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys
If your family is experiencing the heartbreaking loss of a loved one due to a wrongful death action, you don’t have to work alone. At Strickland & Kendall LLC, our experienced attorneys can help you every step of the way through your injury lawsuit. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn about your rights in this difficult time.