Can a Lawsuit Continue, or Do the Survivors Have No Recourse?
After a bad accident, a case of nursing home abuse, or intentional violence, a victim may be left with a permanent disability or medical condition. Lawsuits filed to recover damages after such an incident are called catastrophic injury cases. These cases cover traumatic brain injury, paralysis, loss of limb, spine injuries, or other serious and life-changing conditions.
Because these types of injuries are so harmful, some patients unfortunately do not make it through escalations or complications to their conditions. This is heartbreaking for any survivors—and it brings complex legal questions along with grief. A catastrophic injury case can help a plaintiff recover expenses for medical treatment and future earnings to provide their whole family with a safety net. If they depart before a settlement is negotiated or a verdict decided, can their family still receive compensation for these unexpected expenses?
What Is “Legal Survivorship,” and How Does It Affect Me?
Georgia’s survivorship laws exist precisely for situations like this: Whether a plaintiff or defendant passes away during a lawsuit, justice can still be served. A plaintiff’s survivors can inherit their right to or reason for suing. Likewise, a defendant’s estate can inherit a lawsuit. Though the plaintiff’s survivors may have to file a different suit because they were not directly involved in the original complaint, the right to sue does not disappear after a plaintiff’s death.
A Survivor’s Right to Recover Compensation
In a catastrophic injury case, the plaintiff may request damages including treatment costs, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and emotional or physical pain and suffering. In short, they can estimate the lifelong financial costs of their condition and ask the at-fault party to reimburse them. However, should a plaintiff with a catastrophic injury pass away, their family does not have an immediate claim to the pain and suffering and accident-related medical costs of the deceased. Instead, they can seek to recover through a survival action and/or a wrongful death case.
Survival Actions Honor the Suffering of the Deceased
Aside from the devastating emotional impact of the death of a loved one, families must deal with high expenses in the aftermath—especially if intensive treatment or palliative care was involved. Survival actions make a claim on the behalf of the deceased to recover these immediate costs that would not have existed but for the defendant’s actions. Therefore, these cases address what is needed to attend to a plaintiff’s needs, even after death. They include:
- Medical expenses
- Conscious pain and suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses
Survival actions ensure a defendant is held responsible for the damage they did to the victim, including intangible harms like pain and suffering. Because these expenses would have been used directly to benefit the plaintiff in a personal injury case, they are paid out to the estate or representative of the deceased.
Wrongful Death Actions Provide for Surviving Family Members
After losing a family member, your life will never be the same. Not only will you lose the love and support you enjoyed from a parent, partner, or child, but also their financial contributions. A wrongful death suit is meant to provide for the family of the deceased. Without a loved one’s income and benefits, a family’s financial situation can drastically change. These suits seek to sustain the survivors’ standard of living and security net.
As the injured can receive benefits for pain and suffering, so can the survivors of a family member who died from catastrophic injury. The law recognizes the value of companionship and support and awards damages for each. With a wrongful death suit, family members can ask for:
- Lost wages and benefits
- Loss of care and companionship
- Loss of consortium
Unlike survival actions, wrongful death cases result in a settlement that is paid straight to the family members.
The Support You Need After a Loved One Passes
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy, and few people want to add more legal troubles to their lives in the midst of their grief. We can help your family receive the support you need without making you take on the burden by yourself. Whether you want to file a survival action, a wrongful death claim, or both, we can take the next steps with you.