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What is the Difference Between Wrongful Death and a Survival Action?

The loss of a loved one due to someone else’s carelessness is a terrible and life-changing event. Though nothing can replace what that person meant to their family, the law provides ways that families of the victims of fatal accidents can seek to find some relief and support during such an emotionally and financially trying time: wrongful death and survival lawsuits.

Wrongful Death Actions

The surviving family members of the victim are the plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit. More specifically, in legal terms, they are the beneficiaries of the deceased person’s estate. They must prove that the defendant’s negligent, reckless, or criminal behavior caused the victim’s death. If the court awards them damages, then the damages go directly to the relatives who filed the suit and do not go through the estate.

Survival Actions

A survival action claim is much like a personal injury claim, except that the injured party sadly has deceased. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a representative of the estate. Therefore, it is the estate that receives any compensation awarded as damages. The estate then must use that compensation to pay the deceased person’s debts before distributing any remaining funds to the beneficiaries of the estate.

For example: Mr. X is injured in an accident and he dies from his injuries within the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit, which in Georgia is two years from the time of the accident. Mr. X’s spouse can file a survival action claim, as can his children. It does not matter whether or not the children have reached the age of legal majority; they can still file a lawsuit related to his injury and death. The legal reasoning behind this is that the negligent party’s negligence, and the right of Mr. X to be compensated for it, survives Mr. X.

The Role of Negligence

In any personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, including survival action claims, the plaintiff must prove that the accident that caused the victim’s injury or death was caused by the defendant’s negligence. For example, if the injury was the result of a car accident, negligence could take the form of the defendant failing to drive safely enough to prevent an accident. If it was a slip and fall accident in a store, the owner of the store may have failed to clean up a water spill in a timely manner or to place a “wet floor” sign.

Compensation for Wrongful Death and Survival Actions

Georgia courts calculate damages differently, depending on whether the case is a wrongful death claim or a survival action claim. The following types of damages are awarded in wrongful death lawsuits:

– lost financial support from the deceased person, including income, as well as retirement pensions and insurance benefits;

– compensation for intangible losses, such as the deceased person’s companionship.

All of these damages have to do with financial and non-financial hardship on the part of the surviving relatives. Meanwhile, plaintiffs can recover the following types of damages in survival action claims:

– the deceased person’s medical expenses related to the accident; 

– funeral expenses for the deceased person;

– compensation for intangible losses, such as for the victim’s pain and suffering.

With the exception of funeral expenses, the survival action damages are all related to financial and non-financial hardships suffered by the injured person before he or she died.

Contact CP Law Group About Wrongful Death and Survival Action Cases

If your relative was injured in an accident less than two years ago and died as a result of the accident, you might have grounds for a lawsuit. Contact CP Law Group at 1-844-5-I’M-HURT (1-844-546-4878) to get the help you deserve.

(image courtesy of Ryan Holloway)

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