When a person passes away because of someone else’s negligent behavior, the surviving family is not the only party with legal claims for damages. A survival action might help the deceased person’s estate recover damages.
A survival action is about the losses and injuries incurred by the deceased person. Damages in survival actions are related to injuries suffered by the deceased person that they could have claimed if they survived the accident. In some cases, these damages are just as substantial as, if not greater than, those in related wrongful death claims. While a survival action is often intrinsically connected to a wrongful death claim, they are distinct claims, and filing a wrongful death claim does not automatically trigger a survival action. Generally, survival actions must be filed within 3 years of the defendant’s negligence, not necessarily the date of death. A survival action also requires separate evidence of the deceased person’s losses and injuries.
What is a Survival Action in Wrongful Death Cases in Maryland?
A survival action is related to a wrongful death lawsuit but is a legally separate claim. In a survival action, the deceased person’s estate files the claim rather than surviving family members. The damages in a survival action are related to the injuries, losses, and damages incurred by the deceased person because of the accident.
Survival actions are possible because according to Md. Code, Cts. and Jud. Proc., § 6-401(a), causes of action related to personal injuries and injuries to property or real estate survive the death of the plaintiff and the defendant. This means that even though the plaintiff has passed away, their legal claims for damages are not extinguished.
There is often some overlap between survival actions and wrongful death claims. For example, our Dundalk wrongful death lawyers can help family members claim the loss of financial support from the deceased person in a wrongful death claim. At the same time, the deceased person’s estate can claim the value of the deceased person’s lost income and wages they would have earned.
Damages You Might Claim in a Survival Action in Maryland
The damages in a survival action are focused on losses experienced by the deceased person rather than surviving family. Generally, the deceased person’s estate may file a survival action for damages the deceased person could have brought in a personal injury lawsuit if they survived the accident.
For example, if your loved one passed away after a car accident, a survival action by their estate might recoup losses for medical bills, vehicle damage, pain, suffering, and more. The catch here is that many of the damages in survival actions are limited to losses and experiences the deceased person endured up until the moment of death.
If a car accident victim is pronounced deceased at the scene, there will probably be few, if any, medical bills to claim as part of a survival action. However, if they hang on for a few days or longer, the bills for emergency medical treatment might be quite significant.
How are Damages Distributed in Survival Actions in Maryland?
Because survival actions are filed by a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, damages are paid directly to the estate rather than to surviving family members. This differs from wrongful death claims, where damages might be paid directly to family members and beneficiaries.
Usually, when damages are awarded in a survival action, they are awarded to the deceased person’s estate and divided according to their will. As such, surviving family members might not necessarily receive compensation. The deceased person’s will might name other people besides family members for inheritance. For example, if the deceased person left their entire estate to a charitable organization, that organization would receive compensation from a survival action.
If there is no will, damages from a survival action are distributed according to Maryland intestacy laws. Exactly how damages are distributed in this scenario depends on what family members are left behind, but spouses and children tend to take priority.
When Do I File a Survival Action in Maryland?
A deceased person’s personal representative files a survival action when the person passes away because of wrongful death. While these claims are intertwined, they might adhere to separate filing deadlines.
Since survival actions pertain to personal injuries sustained by the deceased person before passing away, they typically follow the statute of limitations for personal injuries. Typically, the claim must be filed no later than 3 years after the accident.
Remember, since the survival action is distinct from the wrongful death claim, they do not necessarily adhere to the same deadline. While a wrongful death claim also follows a 3-year time limit, that deadline begins to run from the date of death. The deadline for a survival action runs from the date of the accident or act of negligence by the defendant, which might be earlier than the date of death.
How to Prove Your Claims in a Survival Action in Maryland
Evidence for a survival action should focus on the specific losses experienced by the deceased person before they passed away. The evidence you need will vary based on the deceased person’s damages.
If your loved one was rushed to the hospital after their accident, they likely incurred significant medical bills. Alternatively, your loved one’s passing might not have been sudden but rather the result of medical negligence over time. In that case, medical costs and damages might also be high. To get compensation for these damages, we need records of medical treatment and costs. Often, this information can be found in the deceased person’s medical records.
Damages for pain and suffering the deceased person experienced can be claimed too, but these are somewhat more challenging to prove. When the person at the center of the case is no longer with us, we must rely on other details and information. Sometimes, the deceased person’s injuries are so severe that pain and suffering can be naturally inferred. Other times, we can call in witnesses who can testify about the pain the deceased person endured before passing away.