A survival action is a claim filed by a deceased victim’s estate after an accident caused by the actions of a negligent party. The claim seeks damages for things like the deceased’s medical bills and lost wages before death, as well as punitive damages.
A wrongful death claim is a similar claim but it is filed on behalf of remaining family members, instead of the estate. It covers the losses the family has endured and will endure in the future. It does not allow for punitive damages to be assessed.
A Free Consultation for California Families After a Wrongful Death
If you have lost a loved one to someone’s carelessness or recklessness, it is critical to make sure you understand your rights and the benefits available to your family.
The easiest way to stay informed of your options is to take advantage of a free case consultation with a skilled California Wrongful Death and Survival Action Attorney.
Martin Gasparian, the founder of Maison Law, fights to make sure families receive the support they need through such a difficult time. He sees that negligent parties are held fully responsible for their mistakes through a survival action or a wrongful death claim. Contact Maison Law today for a no-obligation case evaluation so that you know about every option you have before you.
Survival Actions in California Explained
A wrongful death lawsuit is filed by a close relative on behalf of the rest of the family and seeks to earn compensation for those left behind. It is meant to compensate family members for their losses including funeral costs and the loss of income the deceased can no longer provide to the family each week through employment.
A survival action is usually separate from a wrongful death claim. It also seeks support, but it focuses on the damages the victim suffered before passing on. The action is often filed when a victim doesn’t die immediately after a negligent act, but survives long enough to accumulate hospital bills, lost wages while also unable to go into work. It also seeks reimbursement for property damage.
The compensation available in a survival action can be thought of as similar to the awards available in a normal personal injury case if the victim had survived.
A survival action is filed by a personal representative for the deceased’s estate. It asks for compensation for every hardship the victim suffered before death. Any money won is awarded to the victim’s estate. Eventually, it would be distributed to the victim’s surviving heirs.
Survival Action and Punitive Damages
Another important difference in a survival action is the possibility of punitive damages. Punitive damages are additional penalties assessed against the negligent party found to have contributed to the deceased’s accident and death.
Additional compensation for punitive damages can not be earned through a family’s wrongful death claim, but are possible through a survival action filed by the victim’s estate.
These penalties are over and above the normal damages awarded to the victim’s estate. They are meant to add extra punishment for an extremely careless or almost intentional act that causes someone’s death. It’s hoped the extra penalties are added incentive for the wrongdoer to avoid ever endangering someone in this way again.
Punitive damages are not levied for the benefit of the victim’s estate, they are intended as additional punishment for guilty parties. However, the money recovered through penalties still goes to the deceased’s estate.
Punitive damages awards can be sizable and when they are legally applicable, survival actions can earn estates and family members much more than a normal wrongful death claim.
What Can My Family Be Compensated for After a California Wrongful Death?
Other than the difference in allowing for punitive damages, survival actions and wrongful death lawsuits can earn compensation for similar factors.
These are just some of the hardships that estate’s and families can receive support for:
- The medical and emergency response fees accumulated before the victim’s death.
- Pain and suffering experienced by the victim before passing on.
- The income the deceased could no longer earn while being out of work before death. In a wrongful death case, these damages would include the lost financial support the deceased can no longer provide close relatives in the future.
In the case of wrongful death claims, families can also be compensated for emotional trauma. This incorporates the anguish close relatives will continually face as they’ve lost the care and guidance of a loved one in the coming years. This may include the loss of consortium (intimate support) a spouse or domestic partner will no longer receive.
A survival action could also ask for compensation for emotional damages if the victim survived long enough to suffer mental trauma.
Who May File Survival Actions
Survival actions and wrongful death claims can be separate claims filed by the same estate and family. They may also be combined into one claim in some cases.
However, legally they remain two different “cause of actions” and will have different standards for proving a negligent party (the defendant) liable. Courts refer to California’s Code of Civil Procedure 377.30 to decide cases involving survival actions. The code also governs who may bring a survival action forward.
377.31. “On motion after the death of a person who commenced an action or proceeding, the court shall allow a pending action or proceeding that does not abate to be continued by the decedent’s personal representative or, if none, by the decedent’s successor in interest.”
The “decedent” is the person who was killed. The “decedent’s successor” is defined as a person, other than a creditor, who is entitled to the property of a decedent under the decedent’s will or as decided by the court.
California Statutes of Limitations on Survival Actions
For wrongful death accidents, California sets the statute of limitations at two years. Victims or their family members have 24 months from the date of the victim’s death to file a lawsuit. Wait beyond this deadline and the suit will likely be rejected in court.
A survival action can have varying deadlines depending on when the victim passes away after an accident. The estate has up to two years to file a survival action from the time of the accident or incident that eventually led to the death of the decedent.
However, if the victim survives for close to two years or longer, the estate gets an extension on the deadline. If this is the case, the survival action may be filed six months after the date of the decedent’s death.
Contact a California Survival Action Lawyer
After a tragedy, determining if a survival action or a wrongful death claim is in the best interest of the remaining family can be a complex matter.
Close relatives and estate representatives should be fully aware of the benefits of each legal option before deciding on what’s best for the entire family. There’s no easier way to make sure you stay informed than by taking advantage of a free case consultation with an experienced California wrongful death attorney.
Contact Maison Law and talk to a real attorney about the best path for your family. Make sure your family is protected from financial hardships now and in the future.