Wrongful death claims can also come with a separate lawsuit typically known as "survival actions." A survival action is a separate lawsuit from the wrongful death claim. Because of that, many people express some confusion as to what survival actions entail. Here's what you need to know about survival actions.
An Additional Personal Injury Lawsuit
As stated, survival actions are a separate lawsuit. Unlike a wrongful death action, survival actions act as a lawsuit for the deceased. A wrongful death lawsuit is for the beneficiaries of the decedent.
A wrongful death affects the family of the decedent. Their spouse and children lose out on current and future support. That includes emotional as well as monetary support. Beneficiaries have a right to seek compensation for that loss, on top of the emotional pain and suffering.
By contrast, survival actions seek compensation for the decedent. The primary victim of a wrongful death isn't there to press a lawsuit on their own behalf. A survival action works as a personal injury case for the decedent. It can help to cover the things covered in a typical personal injury lawsuit, such as lost wages and medical bills.
The best way to think of it is to consider what kind of case a person would have if they survived the actions that led to the wrongful death. The damages awarded in survival actions go to the estate, and not to the beneficiaries. The estate will use the funds according to a will or in a similar fashion to a trust.
In this way, funds awarded from survival actions can still go to the beneficiaries if the will or trust is set up that way. Funds can also go towards paying off debt, bills, and even funeral expenses.
Not Everyone Can File for Survival Actions
State laws vary on who may bring forth a survival action. Generally, the representative of the estate or a legal heir can pursue survival actions. It's possible other relatives can file, or the beneficiaries can file jointly.
If you're not sure if you can or should file survival actions, you should speak to a wrongful death attorney to figure it out. As the laws vary by state, they also can vary depending on the specific circumstances behind the wrongful death. Sometimes, you may not have the ability to file for wrongful death, but can still seek survival actions.
Even though the two types of lawsuits can stem from the same incident, they don't work the same way as each other. That's one of the many reasons it's important to seek legal assistance to weigh your options.