Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wrongful Death vs. Survivors Action

In every accident, not everybody is lucky enough to get out unhurt. Even those individuals who sustain serious injuries and are badly hurt as a result of accidents could also be as lucky as compared to others.

The worst thing that could happen to a person as a result of accident is loss of life. In case of death of an individual as a result of an accident, California laws provide remedies for heirs and beneficiaries of victims of such death. This is what is known as wrongful death.

However, not all deaths result in instantaneous death. Some injuries as a result of accidents are not easily determined. Some of these serious injuries are head injuries and spine injuries. A person who sustains physical injuries as a result of an accident can file for personal injury claims. Unfortunately, there are cases where the plaintiff, who files claims against the negligent party, later dies due to complications to his or her personal injuries from the accident. In this case, California laws allow the heirs or beneficiaries to continue the suit in favor of the deceased. This, in turn, is what is known as survival action.

The only similarities that may be observed from a wrongful death action as opposed to survival action are:
1. Death of a person; and
2. Claims for damages as a result.

There are many differences between actions for wrongful death and survival action.
First, wrongful death in California is governed by Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60, while survival action is governed by Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.30.

Second, the people who are allowed to recover damages are different and they are exclusive of each other. In wrongful death, only the people mentioned in the statute can recover damages. The action therefore cannot be delegated to any other person. It is different, however, with survival action. In this type of action, any heir or beneficiary can claim damages as a result of the death of the person who originally has the right to file suit. California courts allow any person, who stands to inherit from the deceased, to file suit on behalf of the deceased, which is not the same for wrongful death cases.

Third, claims for damages are also different and exclusive between two causes of actions. In wrongful death, the purpose of the law is to allow recovery of damages to the family members left by the deceased, funeral and burial costs may be granted to the claimants. Grant of damages also includes the value of future support, loss of love, affection, comfort, training and care as well as sexual cohabitation.

On the other hand, the purpose of survival action is to step in to the shoes of the deceased. Hence, the claim may include everything that the deceased could have claimed if alive. Damages for this type of action include medical expenses and lost of earnings of the deceased.

Last is the counting of the statute of limitations. In wrongful death, which has a statute of limitations of two years, the date is counted from the time of death of the deceased. On the other hand, in survival action, the statute of limitations begins from the time the cause of action actually arose which is prior to the death of the deceased.