When a loved one dies from injuries suffered in a vehicle crash caused by someone else, loved ones may be able to take civil action against that person. Most people are familiar with wrongful death suits.
Not all fatal crashes are considered “wrongful death.” However, if a person is driving while impaired or speeding excessively, a claim may be in order.
Wrongful death suits are filed after other types of events, from medical malpractice to dangerous property conditions to murder. In many cases, the person who caused the death also faces criminal charges.
Who can bring a wrongful death suit and for what damages?
Only specified people can bring these suits. This includes surviving spouses and partners, children and parents.
Plaintiffs can collect economic damages, such as hospital and burial costs, as well as compensation for lost financial support. They can also seek non-economic damages, like loss of companionship.
How do survival actions differ?
Often, survival actions are filed in addition to wrongful death suits. These are brought on behalf of the deceased person. If a person survived for even a short time before they succumbed to their injuries, a survival claim can be filed by the executor or personal representative of their estate. Even if they didn’t have an estate plan, an executor will be appointed to deal with their assets and other matters.
A survival claim is basically what the deceased could have sought in a personal injury claim had they lived (or already was seeking). Until 2022, California, unlike many states, didn’t allow non-economic (“pain and suffering”) damages in a survival claim. Now plaintiffs can sue on behalf of the estate for the pain and suffering of the deceased while still alive.
If it was a car crash, they may have survived for only a few days. However, they may have lived with long-term injuries or illness that was someone’s fault. Further, the survival action can seek economic damages for money they spent because of their injury.
Why the law may not be permanent
The law was enacted in large part because numerous personal injury cases experienced long delays when courts throughout California were closed a few years ago. Plaintiffs were passing away before their cases got to court. That’s why the law is set to expire at the end of 2025 unless it’s extended or made permanent.
While no amount of money will bring back a loved one, it’s important to understand your legal options for fair compensation. Getting legal guidance as soon as possible is a good first step.