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What Happens When Injury Victims Die Before Finalizing Their Lawsuit?

Sadly, some injury victims pass away from catastrophic injuries before a decision has been reached in their personal injury lawsuit.  So what happens then? Can the surviving family members take over and finish the case? According to Florida law, some rules apply to these circumstances.  If the injury victim passes away during the legal process, the case becomes a wrongful death lawsuit.  This will enable the surviving family members to continue and pursue compensation for damages.

What Damages are Recoverable?

The surviving family members can pursue compensatory or monetary damages and punitive damages if the actions or behavior of the defendant that caused the accident were outrageously careless or egregious.

Compensatory damages include:

  • burial and funeral costs
  • emotional distress and mental anguish resulting from the loss of a loved one
  • loss of companionship
  • loss of future earning potential 
  • loss of income
  • medical bills and expenses pertaining to the victim’s death 
  • property damage 

Basically, any costs associated with the victim’s accident and injuries are a potential source of compensation.

How Do Family Members Pursue Survival Actions?

In some cases, the victim’s passing is not attributed to their injuries.  Florida allows the victim’s family members to pursue a survival action that will continue the injury claim.  This simply means that the original personal injury claim will proceed as a survival action that is meant to compensate the family members for the damages the victim incurred before their passing.

As with a wrongful death suit, the representative of the estate of the deceased can file a survival action to recover the damages that they would’ve been awarded had they survived.  These damages might include lost wages, medical bills, and expenses, and pain and suffering.

Who is Eligible to Sue the Party at Fault?

In a survival action or wrongful death lawsuit, the only one eligible to pursue legal action against the at-fault party is the personal representative of the estate of the deceased.  However, they must prove that negligence caused the person’s death and that the party at fault for the accident failed to establish a duty of care for the deceased.  If the victim failed to name a personal representative (often referred to as an administrator or an executor), the court will appoint one.

Keep in mind that personal injury claims that involve the death of a loved one can be complex, hence the need for a personal injury or wrongful death lawyer.  We work on contingency basis so you don’t have to worry about upfront payments. For additional information regarding this legal issue, contact the Graves Thomas Injury Law Group today at (772) 569-8155.

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