A recent building collapse that killed six people has left many families, who lost these loved ones, wondering how to respond to the incident. In addition to their emotional recovery, the families can seek legal recourse like filing a wrongful death lawsuit or even a survival action to recover for their loss.
One Pennsylvania city official, the City Treasurer, decided to take such action. Her daughter was one of the six people who died in the collapse of a Salvation Army store. She was shopping in the store when suddenly a nearby brick wall collapsed onto the store. She was crushed in the rubble.
An investigation of the incident reveals that it could have been prevented. The nearby storeowners were engaged in a demolition project of which both they and the Salvation Army knew was dangerous. Nevertheless, the thrift store remained open during the demolition project even as bricks rained down on it.
The Salvation Army and several building contractors now face many legal proceedings. Others, in addition to the City Treasurer, have filed civil lawsuits for wrongful death. The defendants are also the subject of a criminal investigation and face charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
Another, perhaps less obvious, claim that a family can assert is a survival action for personal injuries. Unlike a wrongful death suit, which focuses on the harm and damages caused to the family because of the death of a family member, a survival action focuses on the harm sustained by the decedent.
A decedent's personal representative can file a lawsuit to recover for the personal injuries to the decedent. Any damages that a jury awards then go into the decedent's estate for distribution. There are several facts the a jury considers in making such an award: (1) the severity of pain the decedent experienced; (2) the decedent's consciousness; (3) the apprehension of impending death; and (4) the length of suffering.
The building collapse is certainly a tragic event for many families in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, there are steps they can take to remedy their damages. Consulting with a wrongful death attorney can help explore these and other options.
Source: Claims Journal, "Pennsylvania Official Sues Over Daughter's Collapse Death," Maryclaire Dale, Sept. 19, 2013