When a person dies because of the negligence of another party, the heirs of the decedent may file a lawsuit to hold the negligent party accountable. The most common type of claim is a wrongful death suit. The deceased person’s immediate family members may be able to receive financial compensation for their losses. The second type of litigation is a survival action, which attempts to recover for the victim’s pain and suffering before death. The two types of claims have some similarities and some differences.
Wrongful Death Suit
In a wrongful death case, the goal is to have the court award compensation to cover financial losses and pain and suffering that occurred due to the victim’s injury and death. Awards in a wrongful death suit go directly to the immediate family members and may include pain and suffering, the cost of the funeral and burial, and any other out of pocket expenses related to the death of the victim.
Survival actions seek compensation for the victim’s financial losses and pain and suffering before death due to the negligence of the other party. The losses might include medical bills, lost wages, damage to property, and pain and suffering that might have been covered by insurance if the victim had survived. Expenses may be related to emotional distress as well as the physical pain of the decedent before death. Awards for damages in a survival action went to the decedent’s estate and distributed by the executor.
The laws related to wrongful death cases vary by state, which means that the legislature of each one sets the rules for that state. Before the adoption of those laws, claims to compensation for negligence died with the victim. Wrongful death suits seek to make the heirs whole again financially.
In some jurisdictions, heirs can file both a wrongful death suit and a survival action. In others, the family can register one or the other, but not both. Even the meaning of “heirs” varies by state. While heirs are generally the spouse and children of a deceased person, in some states other relatives may file, such as parents, grandparents, or siblings. If you’d like information about the laws in your state, consult a knowledgeable and experienced wrongful death lawyer in Harrisonburg, VA as soon as possible who can walk you through your case start to finish. The professional can help you determine what type of wrongful death action you can file and how to follow through with the matter.
Thanks to MartinWren, P.C. for their insight into personal injury claims and survival action in a wrongful death lawsuit.