Compensation in Survival Actions: Recovering Damages for the Deceased
When a person suffers injuries due to negligence or wrongful actions that lead to their untimely death, their surviving family members often seek justice and compensation through a legal mechanism known as a survival action. Survival actions enable the pursuit of damages on behalf of the deceased person’s estate for the injuries, suffering, and losses they endured between the time of their injury and their passing. This comprehensive guide delves into the compensation aspect of survival actions, exploring the types of damages that can be recovered and the factors that influence the calculation of compensation in these cases.
I. Types of Damages in Survival Actions
Survival actions can result in the recovery of various types of damages, all of which aim to compensate the deceased person’s estate for the harm they experienced before their death. The key categories of damages in survival actions include:
1. Medical Expenses:
Reimbursement for the medical bills and expenses incurred by the deceased person for the treatment of injuries sustained due to the negligent or wrongful actions of the responsible party. This category may encompass hospital bills, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation costs, and other medical-related expenses.
2. Pain and Suffering:
Compensation for the physical and emotional pain and suffering endured by the deceased person between the time of their injury and their passing. This can be challenging to quantify but seeks to provide relief for the distress the individual experienced during this period.
3. Lost Wages:
Recovery for the income the deceased person would have earned had they survived their injuries and continued working. Calculating lost wages typically involves considering the person’s occupation, income history, and future earning potential.
4. Property Damage:
Compensation for any property damage resulting from the accident or incident leading to the injuries and subsequent death. This category may include damage to the deceased person’s vehicle in a car accident or other personal property.
5. Funeral and Burial Expenses:
Coverage for the funeral and burial expenses associated with the deceased person’s passing. This category seeks to alleviate the financial burden placed on surviving family members to ensure a respectful farewell for their loved one.
6. Other Economic Losses:
Reimbursement for any additional economic losses suffered by the deceased person before their death. These losses can vary widely and may include costs related to home modifications, transportation, or special medical equipment needed due to the injuries.
II. Factors Influencing Compensation in Survival Actions
Several factors can influence the calculation and amount of compensation awarded in survival actions:
1. Extent of Injuries and Suffering:
The severity of the injuries and the extent of the deceased person’s suffering play a significant role in determining compensation. More severe injuries and prolonged suffering often lead to higher awards.
2. Medical Expenses:
The total amount of medical expenses incurred by the deceased person before their death is a crucial factor in compensation calculation. Detailed records and documentation of medical bills are essential for accurate reimbursement.
3. Lost Wages:
The deceased person’s potential income, taking into account their occupation, salary history, and future earning capacity, is considered when calculating compensation for lost wages.
4. Age and Life Expectancy:
The age and life expectancy of the deceased person at the time of their injury and death can impact compensation. Younger individuals with longer life expectancies may receive higher compensation due to their potentially greater lost future earnings.
5. Contributory Negligence:
In some cases, if the deceased person contributed to their injuries through their actions or negligence, their compensation may be reduced under the principle of comparative negligence.
6. State Laws and Jurisdiction:
State laws and jurisdictional factors can also affect the calculation of compensation in survival actions. Different states have varying rules regarding damages and liability.
III. The Role of Expert Witnesses
In many survival action cases, the expertise of various professionals may be required to determine the appropriate amount of compensation. Expert witnesses, such as medical professionals, economists, and accident reconstruction specialists, can provide valuable testimony and analysis to support the compensation claims. Their roles may include:
1. Medical Experts:
Medical professionals can assess the extent of the deceased person’s injuries, the pain and suffering they endured, and the medical expenses incurred. Their testimony can help establish the medical basis for compensation.
Economists can calculate the potential lost earnings of the deceased person by considering their occupation, salary history, and life expectancy. This analysis helps determine the economic damages suffered by the estate.
3. Accident Reconstruction Specialists:
In cases involving accidents, such as car crashes, accident reconstruction specialists can provide expert opinions on how the incident occurred and the factors contributing to the injuries and death. Their analysis can support the causation element of the claim.
IV. Legal Strategies for Maximizing Compensation
Surviving family members pursuing compensation in survival actions can employ several legal strategies to maximize their recovery:
1. Thorough Documentation:
Gathering and preserving all relevant evidence, including medical records, bills, employment history, and expert opinions, is crucial for building a strong case for compensation.
2. Expert Testimony:
Utilizing expert witnesses to provide professional opinions and analyses can strengthen the claim and support the calculation of damages.
3. Negotiation and Settlement:
Engaging in negotiation with the responsible party or their insurance company may lead to a settlement that provides timely compensation to the estate. However, it’s essential to consult with legal experts to ensure the settlement is fair and adequate.
If negotiations do not result in a satisfactory settlement, pursuing litigation through the court system may be necessary. An experienced attorney can guide the estate through the legal process, presenting the case to a judge or jury.
V. Statutes of Limitations in Survival Actions
Survival actions, like other legal claims, are subject to statutes of limitations. These laws dictate the timeframe within which a survival action must be filed. The statutes of limitations can vary by jurisdiction and may depend on the specific circumstances of the case. Failing to initiate a survival action within the applicable statute of limitations can result in the claim being barred.
VI. Conclusion: Seeking Justice and Closure
Compensation in survival actions serves as a means to seek justice and provide financial relief for the harm, suffering, and losses endured by a deceased individual due to negligence or wrongful actions. While no amount of compensation can truly replace a lost loved one, it can help surviving family members find closure and alleviate the financial burdens associated with their loved one’s injuries and passing.
Navigating the complexities of compensation in survival actions requires the expertise of attorneys experienced in personal injury and wrongful death law. Consulting with legal experts empowers surviving family members to seek justice and ensure that their rights are protected, enabling them to honor the memory of their loved one and obtain the compensation they deserve.