Recent statistics show that Arizona ranks seventh across the U.S. for accidental deaths. While the causes of death vary, leading causes from year to year include motor vehicle accidents, falls, and poisoning by drugs or medications. Accidental deaths could turn into wrongful death cases, where surviving family members seek compensation after the loss of an individual. Legal options vary between wrongful death vs survival action suits.
Defining Wrongful Death vs Survival Action
Wrongful death occurs when an individual acts intentionally, negligently, or carelessly and takes the life of another person. These actions and the resulting consequences are governed by Arizona state law according to these definitions.
Under a wrongful death suit, the claim seeks compensation for the beneficiaries of the deceased. This typically includes the deceased’s estate or any surviving family members. Under Arizona law, the injured party can take action to recover damages from the person or corporation liable for the death. The law also specifies who is eligible to bring a suit against the liable party. These include:
- Surviving spouse
- Parent or guardian
- Personal representative of the deceased on behalf of the above individuals or when there are no survivors, on behalf of the decedent’s estate
If the situation involves the death of a child, either a parent or a guardian may file a claim on the deceased’s behalf. If any of the parties eligible to file a claim are found guilty, pled guilty, or entered a no-contest plea in a case involving the death of the child or individual, it disqualifies them from receiving any wrongful death benefits.
When comparing wrongful death vs. survival action, the latter seeks to repay family members according to the damages the deceased individual could have received had they survived and filed a personal injury claim directly. In essence, this is a personal injury claim filed on behalf of the deceased.
While it sounds similar to a wrongful death scenario, a primary difference is the individuals who are able to bring the claim. Under a survival action, it’s the executor of the deceased person’s estate who usually brings the claim. With a wrongful death, there is more flexibility in who can bring the suit.
Determining the Elements of Each Claim
Though similar to a personal injury claim, there are different statutes governing the eligibility of claims and what the filing party is able to claim. With a survival claim, eligibility requires a death occurring because of neglect, default, or a wrongful act. The same applies to a wrongful death claim.
In order to hold another party responsible for the death, the evidence must show conduct that either intentionally or unintentionally caused the death. Unintentional behaviors are actions of negligence or careless disregard for another’s safety. The legal grounds that establish liability are as follows:
- The individual owed a legal duty of care to the victim.
- The individual breached their duty of care.
- The individual exhibited negligence that directly caused the death of the victim.
- The actions and corresponding deaths resulted in damages.
For many of the deaths related to motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death actions are a way for surviving family members to receive compensation from the at-fault party. Drivers have a legal responsibility to obey the rules of the roadway and drive without impairment. Distractions, intoxication, or reckless behaviors demonstrate negligence or a breach of the duty of care.
Filing Differences Between Wrongful Death vs. Survival Action
There is a timeline governing both filing for survival action and wrongful death, known as the statutes of limitations. For a wrongful death claim, there is a two-year window from the date of the deceased’s death. If the individual was injured but died several weeks later, the clock starts with the date of the death.
The statute of limitations for a survival action is different. There is a two-year limitation for filing based on one of the following elements:
- The date the injury occurred
- Six months after death occurs
The limitation applies to whichever of the above elements occurred at the latest. Working with an attorney from the moment of the accident and death can ensure you know the deadlines for your claim.
Possible Damage Awards
The intent of filing a wrongful death or survival action claim is an award for damages. While there is no replacing your lost loved one, damages are a way to account for the financial loss you experience with their passing.
With survival claims, there are often a number of expenses accumulated over the court of the decedent’s life that are a direct result of their injuries. This could be weeks of medical care and treatments. In addition to the physical cost of their injuries, emotional trauma, and lost income are also a result of an injury. Survival claims help recover these damages.
In a wrongful death suit, the family members seek compensation for the suffering that occurred because of the death and the loss of financial support the deceased would have provided. A number of factors determine a fair amount, including:
- How dependent the family was on the individual
- Income prior to the incident
- Expected future income
Here is another key difference in wrongful death vs. survival action claims. With wrongful death, the surviving family members seek damages for their personal losses associated with the death of their loved one, while a survival claim seeks damages for the losses of the deceased as if the person were still living.
Damages for wrongful death can include loss of income beyond death, funeral expenses, and the pain and suffering of the family. Survival claims can include any damages incurred from the time of the injury until the date of death.
Choosing Between Wrongful Death vs. Survival Action Claims
If you recently suffered the loss of a loved one because of the actions of another person or organization, knowing how to compare wrongful death vs. survival action claims will guide you toward your compensation options. For legal help, work with the Sargon Law Group. Our legal professionals understand Arizona laws and how they impact your ability to recover damages. Contact us today.