Pursuing Justice Through Survival Actions: A Comprehensive Guide
Losing a loved one is a profoundly painful experience, especially when their death is the result of negligence, wrongdoing, or an accident caused by someone else. In such cases, surviving family members may have the opportunity to seek justice and compensation through a legal mechanism known as a survival action. This comprehensive guide aims to provide an in-depth understanding of survival actions, including what they entail, how they differ from wrongful death claims, and the steps involved in pursuing justice on behalf of a deceased loved one.
I. What Are Survival Actions?
A survival action is a legal claim brought on behalf of the deceased person’s estate to seek compensation for the damages they suffered as a result of their injuries before their death. Unlike wrongful death claims, which focus on the losses suffered by surviving family members, survival actions center on the harm experienced by the deceased person during the period between their injury and death.
Key Features of Survival Actions:
Compensation for the Deceased Person: The primary objective of a survival action is to secure compensation for the damages, injuries, and losses endured by the deceased person between the time of their injury and their death.
Continuation of the Deceased Person’s Legal Claims: In a survival action, the legal claims of the deceased person are continued on their behalf by the personal representative or executor of their estate. This allows for the pursuit of claims that the deceased person may have initiated or could have pursued had they survived.
Separate from Wrongful Death Claims: Survival actions are distinct from wrongful death claims. While wrongful death claims focus on the losses suffered by surviving family members, survival actions concentrate solely on the damages suffered by the deceased person.
II. Common Situations for Survival Actions
Survival actions can arise from various situations, including:
Personal Injury Accidents: When a person sustains injuries in an accident, such as a car crash, slip and fall, or medical malpractice, and those injuries contribute to their death, a survival action may be pursued to seek compensation for the pain and suffering experienced during the period between the injury and death.
Medical Malpractice: In cases of medical malpractice resulting in a patient’s death, a survival action may be brought to recover damages for the harm caused by the medical error before the patient’s passing.
Workplace Accidents: If a worker is injured on the job and later succumbs to those injuries, a survival action may be pursued to address the losses and suffering experienced by the deceased worker prior to their death.
Product Liability: In cases where a defective product causes injuries that ultimately lead to the victim’s death, a survival action can seek compensation for the pain and suffering endured due to the product defect.
III. Initiating a Survival Action
To initiate a survival action, specific steps must be taken:
Appointing a Personal Representative: A personal representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate must be appointed. This individual is responsible for bringing the survival action on behalf of the estate.
Gathering Evidence: Evidence related to the deceased person’s injuries, medical treatment, pain and suffering, and financial losses must be collected and documented.
Filing the Lawsuit: The personal representative files a lawsuit against the responsible party or parties, alleging negligence, wrongful actions, or other legal grounds for the survival action.
Pursuing the Legal Claim: The lawsuit proceeds similarly to other personal injury cases, with both parties presenting evidence, engaging in discovery, and potentially negotiating a settlement or going to trial.
IV. Compensation in Survival Actions
Compensation sought in a survival action can include various elements, such as:
Medical Expenses: Reimbursement for medical bills and expenses related to the deceased person’s injuries and treatment.
Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the physical and emotional pain and suffering experienced by the deceased person between the time of their injury and death.
Lost Wages: Recovery for the income the deceased person would have earned had they survived their injuries.
Property Damage: Compensation for any property damage resulting from the accident or incident leading to the injuries.
Funeral and Burial Expenses: Coverage for funeral and burial expenses associated with the deceased person’s passing.
Other Economic Losses: Reimbursement for any additional economic losses suffered by the deceased person before their death.
V. Statutes of Limitations for Survival Actions
It’s essential to be aware of the statutes of limitations that apply to survival actions. These laws dictate the timeframes within which a survival action must be filed. Statutes of limitations 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. Survival Actions vs. Wrongful Death Claims
Survival actions and wrongful death claims serve distinct purposes and address different aspects of a fatal accident or incident:
Focus on the damages suffered by the deceased person before their death, seeking compensation for their pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses during the period between the injury and death.
Brought on behalf of the deceased person’s estate by a personal representative or executor.
Damages recovered in a survival action become part of the deceased person’s estate and may be distributed to their heirs or beneficiaries.
Wrongful Death Claims:
Focus on the losses suffered by surviving family members, such as loss of companionship, financial support, and emotional suffering.
Brought by surviving family members, such as spouses, children, or parents.
Compensate surviving family members directly for their losses.
Damages recovered in a wrongful death claim are typically distributed among the surviving family members.
VII. Conclusion: Seeking Justice and Closure
Pursuing justice through a survival action is a critical legal mechanism that allows for the pursuit of compensation on behalf of a deceased person’s estate for the injuries and losses they suffered before their death. These actions can provide financial support for the deceased person’s estate and, by extension, their heirs or beneficiaries.
Navigating the complexities of survival actions can be challenging during an emotionally taxing time. It’s crucial to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in personal injury and wrongful death law to guide you through the legal process and ensure that your rights and interests are protected. Understanding the legal options available after the loss of a loved one can provide some measure of financial relief and justice for the pain and suffering endured by the deceased person and their surviving family members.