Do personal injury claims survive death?

The State of South Carolina defines a wrongful death as one caused by the negligence or wrongful actions of another person. For the death to be considered “wrongful,” the negligent act must have been something that the deceased could have filed a legitimate personal injury claim for if they had survived. Depending on the time between the event that caused the personal injury and the time of death, these damages can vary widely. Even in situations where the victim dies soon after the accident, substantial recovery is still possible, as wrongful death damages can be significant.

Keep in mind that some states will have special limits or limits on the wrongful death damages that eligible survivors can recover. The injustice of that outcome has been recognized, and the law has evolved so that a personal injury claim now survives the death of the injured person or the negligent person who caused the injury. It does this by explicitly allowing the executor or manager of the victim's (decedent's) estate to maintain the personal injury claim. Every case is different, and the resilience and amount you can recover in a personal injury claim will vary depending on the circumstances of each case.

Wrongful death lawsuits are also different from personal injury lawsuits in the scope of available damages. In Maryland, if a plaintiff initially survives the accident, but then dies from his or her injuries, any personal injury claims the victim has filed will not continue. If a victim dies after filing a personal injury lawsuit, but before a trial is entered, Nevada's revised statutes protect the rights to the deceased's estate. The same procedure is required if the person against whom the lawsuit is filed (the defendant) dies before the lawsuit is filed or after the lawsuit is filed.

However, what is the appropriate action to take if it is not clear if the injured person died as a result of the injury or if a defendant argues that the injury caused the death? Whether the claimant died due to injuries caused by the negligent party is significant, as it determines the nature of the recoverable damages. If the accident victim survived the accident, filed a personal injury lawsuit for his injuries, but later died from his injuries, the lawsuit will escalate to a wrongful death action after his death. In other words, if Person A's misconduct was serious enough to kill Person B, Person A could be forced not to pay damages or other civil penalties (criminal liability was a different matter, of course). States now have laws that allow a mass tort or other personal injury lawsuit to exist if the injured person dies (usually called survival actions), and also allow specific individuals to sue for the harm they suffer due to the death of someone very close to them (usually called cases of wrongful death).

In Florida, personal injury lawsuits do not survive if the injuries that are the subject of the personal injury lawsuit are the cause of death; rather, those personal injury lawsuits will be converted into wrongful death actions. While the death of one of the parties no longer extinguishes the lawsuit, it does create some procedural and practical problems that the personal injury lawyer must navigate on behalf of the client. But any car accident claim would be a wrongful death lawsuit because the car accident was the cause of death.

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