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Wrongful Death in Georgia: Your Guide to Survival Action Claims

The loss of a close loved one to an accident caused by negligence is a terrible, heartbreaking tragedy. Surviving family members have the right to pursue justice, accountability, and compensation through a civil wrongful death claim. The victim’s estate may also have a separate, but related type of cause of action called a survival action claim. 

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about survival action claims, including what they are and how they work. At Lourie, Chance, Forlines, Carter & King, PC, we advocate for justice for grieving families. Within this article, our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers provide an overview of the most important things to know about survival action claims. 

What is a Survival Action Claim?

A survival action claim is a legal claim that can be brought forward to continue a personal injury lawsuit that the deceased filed (or would be entitled to file) if they had lived. It is a type of claim that allows the estate of the deceased to recover damages for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced between the time of injury and death. 

While survival action claims are filed after a person passes away, they are not the same thing as a wrongful death claim. A survival action claim is a distinct cause of action. Unlike a wrongful death claim—which seeks compensation for the losses suffered by the deceased’s survivors—a survival action claim focuses on the damages that the deceased incurred before their death.

Know Georgia’s Survival Action Statute 

Georgia has a specific statute for survival action claims. Under GA Code § 9-2-41, a person’s death will not end an ongoing personal injury claim nor will it terminate the right to file a personal injury claim.

In other words, a personal injury case can “survive” the victim’s death. The right to sue for personal injuries does not perish with the injured party. The statute ensures that if an individual suffers injuries leading to death, their estate can pursue compensation for pain, suffering, and other damages experienced from the time of injury until death.

In many ways, survival action claims bridge the gap between personal injury cases and wrongful death cases. 

Who has a Survival Action Claim in Addition to a Wrongful Death Claim?

In Georgia, not every person killed in an accident caused by negligence will have a viable survival action claim. A person killed instantly in a car crash may not have a survival action claim. Their entire case may be handled as a wrongful death claim.

However, a person who survived the immediate accident only to pass away days, weeks, or even months later likely has a survival action claim. Through their claim, their estate can pursue compensation for both economic losses (such as medical bills and lost income) and intangible damages (such as pain and suffering). 

What to Know About Liability in Survival Action Cases

In Georgia, liability in survival action cases generally requires establishing negligence or other wrongdoing by the defendant. The estate must prove that the negligent/wrongful act in question caused the victim’s death. What exactly constitutes negligence depends on a wide range of different factors.

It could be anything from a person texting while driving to a trucking company failing to inspect its vehicle to a doctor negligently misdiagnosing a serious condition. Regardless of the specific situation, the estate’s representative must gather all relevant evidence. 

Understanding Survival Action Damages

Unlike wrongful death claims, the damages in a survival action claim are meant to directly compensate the deceased for the harm that they suffered. Put another way, a survival action claim covers the damages that the victim would have been able to pursue in a personal injury claim had they survived the accident. For example, if a person lived for two weeks after a terrible car wreck in Atlanta only to subsequently pass away, their estate could pursue a survival action claim to seek compensation for the pain and suffering—and other damages—that they endured during those two weeks.

In contrast, a wrongful death claim allows the surviving family members to seek compensation for their damages, such as their loss of love, companionship, and consortium. 

A Two-Year Statute of Limitations for Survival Action Claims in Georgia

You have a limited time to bring a survival action claim in Georgia. There is a strict two-year statute of limitations. To be clear, for a survival action claim, the statute of limitations starts to run on the accident, not the date of the death. For instance, imagine a person involved in a catastrophic accident in January of 2024.

They eventually passed away due to their injuries six months later. The statute of limitations for the survival action claim still starts running on the date of the accident (January 2024), not the date of the death. Be proactive: Consult with an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer immediately. 

Families Can Pursue Both a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action Claim

In Georgia, the law allows the deceased’s family or estate to pursue both a wrongful death claim and a survival action claim concurrently. You do not have to pick between these two types of claims. Remember, while the wrongful death claim seeks compensation for the full value of the life of the deceased, focusing on the financial and emotional losses of the survivors, the survival action claim compensates for the deceased’s pain and suffering before death.

An experienced Atlanta wrongful death lawyer can help you navigate both types of claims. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney Today

At Lourie, Chance, Forlines, Carter & King, PC, our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers are compassionate, reliable, and committed to justice. If you have any specific questions or concerns about a survival action claim, we can help. Contact our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers today for your free, completely confidential case review.

With legal offices in Atlanta and Augusta, we represent grieving families in wrongful death claims and survival action claims throughout Georgia.