Wrongful Death And Survivor Actions: What’s The Difference?
For many reasons, a typical accident or personal injury case can take many years to resolve. During that time, a lot of things can happen, including, sadly, the death of the victim. What happens to a personal injury case when a victim dies?
The good news is that a victim’s case does not end or have to be dismissed, just because the victim dies. In Florida, a victim’s case lives on, even after the victim may have passed away.
How the case proceeds largely depends on how the victim died; specifically, whether the victim died as a result of the accident, or from causes unrelated to the accident.
Death Unrelated to the Accident
When a victim passes away for reasons unrelated to the accident or the injuries sustained in the accident, the victim’s estate can carry the case forward, and recover the damages that the deceased would have recovered, had the victim been alive. This is called a survivor action. The survivor action focuses on the damages of the deceased victim.
Damages may include expenses, and noneconomic damages, such as the pain, suffering, anxiety, or trauma the victim suffered as a result of the accident.
Death Caused by the Accident
Of course, many times the victim passes away for injuries that were sustained in the accident itself. This is commonly known as a wrongful death case. Unlike a survivorship action which focuses on the victim, a wrongful death case focuses on the victim’s family members.
Unlike with a survivorship action, in a wrongful death case, family members can recover for things like loss of financial support the victim had provided or would have provided, or loss of companionship, or consortium, that was provided for and lost when the victim passed away.
Family can also recover for any medical expenses or funeral expenses that may have been incurred by the victim or the victim’s estate.
What’s the Cause?
Sometimes it isn’t easy to tell whether a death was caused by the accident or not. For example, someone may have an accident, wane in the hospital, develop an infection in the hospital, and pass away. There may be arguments that the accident is what put the victim in that situation, and thus, the death is caused by the accident, but there may also be an argument that a hospital infection (the cause of death) is not related to the actual accident.
Of course, the Defendant will argue that the cause of death is whatever would lead to or result in, a smaller compensation.
Substitutions of Plaintiffs
In many cases, the named Plaintiff in a lawsuit may have to be substituted from the victim to the victim’s estate, and there are strict time limits to do this. That means that if a loved one has a pending lawsuit and passes away—for any reason—you should tell your injury attorney immediately.
If you have a loved one that has passed away after an accident, we can help. Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig today.