When a person's death is caused by the negligent act of another person, Washington's survival statutes preserve causes of action that the deceased person could have brought had he or she survived.
The purpose of awarding damages under the survival statutes is to remedy the old common law anomaly which only allowed accident victims to sue if they survived an accident but barred the claim if they died.
This means that a survival action is a claim for injuries and damages that the deceased suffered prior to death, and which the deceased could have pursued had he/she lived.
Example of a Survival Action in Wrongful Death Claims
An example of a survival action would be where the deceased is injured but does not die immediately from those injuries. This time period between the injury and death may be short (a few hours or a few days), or the period may be much longer (a few months or even years).
During this period, the deceased may have incurred more medical bills and other expenses, and may also have experienced ongoing physical pain and mental suffering before death.
In a case like this, in addition to a wrongful death claim the deceased’s estate may also pursue a survival action to recover these pre-death damages which were proximately caused by the at-fault party’s negligence or wrongful act.