If a person initially survives an accident or serious injury but dies before they’re able to settle their claim or bring a lawsuit, two things happen:
- The right to pursue a personal injury claim on behalf of the victim is passed along to the estate; and
- Beneficiaries of the victim (i.e., spouse, children and parents) can pursue damages of their own through a separate “wrongful death” claim.
The victim’s personal injury claim becomes what’s called a “survival action” at this point, and is meant to seek compensation for damages suffered prior to the victim’s death. These claims are generally handled by the representative of the estate, and any compensation goes directly to the estate of the deceased for distribution.
A wrongful death claim, on the other hand, is meant to compensate the family members of the deceased for their related damages (e.g., loss of love, companionship, guidance, financial support, etc.), and any compensation is generally paid out to the plaintiffs directly.