Survival Action Lawyers in Los Angeles
Representing the interests of surviving family members
When someone is injured in an accident that was the fault of another party, a California personal injury attorney can file a personal injury claim to recover damages for medical bills and other losses. However, the process of financial recovery is quite different when an accident is fatal and results in the loss of a close family member.
Following a fatal accident, the law gives certain parties the right to file legal claims to recover damages, as a deceased person cannot file a lawsuit. While the most commonly discussed lawsuit in this situation is a wrongful death claim, California law also allows for survival actions to be filed. These are two different legal causes of action with two different purposes, and both are highly important to ensure the responsible parties are held fully accountable for causing the death and resulting losses.
If you recently lost a loved one, you need to discuss both a wrongful death claim and a survival action with a California personal injury lawyer. At Blair & Ramirez LLP, we represent surviving family members, as well as estate representatives in survival actions, to ensure you receive the full financial recovery you deserve following a tragic loss. Contact our dedicated legal team today to learn more about how we can help you.
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What is a survival cause of action?
When someone passes away, they generally lose their right to file a legal claim and recover damages. A survival action is an exception to this rule because the right to sue survives the death. While a deceased person cannot pursue a lawsuit, California law passes the right on to the deceased’s estate. California Code of Civil Procedure 377.30 provides the personal representative of the deceased’s estate the opportunity to file a claim to pursue damages on behalf of the deceased.
If another person or party acted negligently, recklessly, or intentionally wrongfully to cause the death in question, a survival action is appropriate in many cases. These actions can arise from many types of incidents, including:
- Traffic accidents
- Nursing home neglect or abuse
- Medical malpractice
- Violent assaults
As long as the victim survived long enough to incur any damages—even minor ones—the estate can bring a survival action to recover for those damages. If you believe that a survival action might be allowed in the case of your lost loved one, please do not wait to consult with our best wrongful death and survival action lawyers in Los Angeles today.
Who can bring a survival action in California?
As mentioned, a survival action is brought by the personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate. This person is designated to “represent” the deceased’s rights and wishes—both during the probate process and in any applicable survival actions.
A personal representative is generally named in the last will and testament of the person who passed away. Once the will is approved by the probate court as valid, the personal representative can take action on behalf of the estate and begin the process of filing the survival action. If there was no will left by the deceased, the action may be filed by a successor in the interest of the deceased, who is a beneficiary of the estate and considered to be the natural successor to causes of action or property of the deceased individual.
Often, people will designate close family members as their personal representatives, such as a spouse or an adult child. However, in some situations, a person may select an attorney, close friend, or another trusted individual as the personal representative of their estate.
Wrongful death vs. survival action
Wrongful death claims and survival actions are often closely associated, which makes sense as they arise from the same fatal event. However, it is important to remember they are different causes of action that seek different types of damages. These claims can be filed together or separately. However, in either case, they have many differences.
Some of these key differences include:
- Who can file: A wrongful death lawsuit is filed by specified close family members, while a survival action must be filed by the estate’s personal representative or successor in interest.
- Compensation sought: Wrongful death claims seek compensation for the losses of surviving family members, while survival actions seek compensation for the losses of the deceased and the estate prior to death.
- Time limits: Family members generally have a significantly longer time to file a wrongful death lawsuit than the personal representative has to file a survival action following the death.
- Punitive damages: Punitive damages are not allowed in wrongful death cases in California, although they are allowed when appropriate in survival actions.
Our attorneys can handle both wrongful death claims and survival actions, and you should not delay in discussing the next steps in either case with our legal team.
Damages in a survival action
The damages recoverable in a survival action in California are significantly different than those that you can recover in a wrongful death claim. This is because a survival action is limited to the losses suffered by the deceased after the fatal wrongful act but before his or her death. Some of the damages commonly sought in a survival action include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income from being unable to work
- Damage to, or loss of, personal property
In cases in which an accident is instantly fatal, there is likely no survival action to pursue. That said, if the victim survived the accident long enough to sustain any sort of economic losses, a survival action can likely be filed. Some common examples of victims whose estates would probably be able to bring survival actions include:
- An older adult who passed away after experiencing abuse or neglect in a nursing home.
- A person who passed away after an accident caused by an impaired driver.
- A person who passed away in the hospital after being shot.
- A slip and fall victim who later succumbed to his or her injuries.
What is the California survival action statute of limitations?
The amount of time that the decedent’s personal representative or successor in interest has to file a survival action can vary widely depending on the circumstances of the case. The statute of limitations in a survival action begins to run at the time of the wrongful act that resulted in the decedent’s death. A survival action can be filed before either of the following events occur:
- Six months from the date that the decedent passes away.
- Two years from the date of the act that resulted in the decedent’s death.
In cases where the decedent survives for some time after the accident or wrongful act, the time limit for filing a survival action can be significantly longer than the time limit for a wrongful death claim. In other cases, they can be nearly or even exactly the same.
Due to the fact that a survival action is the only way that the estate can recover punitive damages, it is vital that the decedent’s personal representative or successor in interest file a claim within the appropriate time. The most effective way to ensure that your claim is filed in time is to speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible after losing a loved one.
What is the California survival cause of action right to punitive damages?
Punitive damages are not related back to any specific losses of the deceased or the estate. Instead, these are damages allowed in certain cases that intend to punish the highly egregious or intentionally wrongful behavior of the party responsible for the death. One of the key differences between survival actions and wrongful death claims is that a survival action can seek punitive damages.
Punitive damages are generally not recoverable in cases involving pure negligence. For instance, if a driver was momentarily distracted and caused a fatal accident, they likely will not be liable for punitive damages since their conduct was not particularly egregious. Instead, punitive damages are often common in cases involving malice, oppression, fraud, and conduct that displays a willful disregard for the safety and rights of others. Some examples of cases that might lead to punitive damages include:
- Violence that resulted in homicide.
- Drunk driving accidents by repeat offenders.
- Companies that engaged in fraud, such as manufacturers of highly harmful pharmaceuticals that concealed deadly side-effects.
These are only some examples of cases in which a survival action can recoup punitive damages. It is possible to seek such damages even if the victim died a short time following the wrongful act.
How much compensation can be recovered through punitive damages?
Because punitive damages do not stem from specific losses such as medical expenses, the amount can vary widely depending on the circumstances of the case. The amount is generally substantial, as these damages are intended to punish the responsible parties and deter similar conduct in the future. In fact, awards of punitive damages often far outweigh the rest of the damages in survival actions.
The amount of punitive damages awarded often is based on:
- How reprehensible the conduct of the defendant was
- The extent of harm the victim suffered
- The amount of wealth the defendant has
In some cases, actual damages might be minimal, but punitive damages might reach into the millions of dollars. This is one reason why, in many situations, it is critical to pursue a survival action in addition to a wrongful death lawsuit.
Contact our survival action attorneys in California to discuss your rights today
Losing a loved one as a result of someone else’s wrongful conduct is never easy, and nothing you or anyone else can do will change the past. That said, pursuing and obtaining damages on behalf of your loved one can help you feel that justice has been done and also help ensure the financial stability of you and your family.
At Blair & Ramirez LLP, our compassionate and aggressive survival action attorneys will review the facts of your case at no cost to you and let you know whether we believe you have a survival action to pursue. To schedule your free case evaluation with one of our attorneys, call our office today or contact us now.