Wrongful Death vs Survival Actions

If you have lost a loved one due to the careless, negligent, or reckless actions of another person, you may be entitled to compensation. As you begin to sort through the difficult aftermath of losing someone you love, you will likely hear two different phrases – “wrongful death” and “survival action.”

Wrongful death claims and survival claims have various similarities, but they also have distinct differences. No matter what type of claim you are filing, the process can become complex and usually requires an attorney to help guide you through the technicalities involved.

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death claim may be brought by the deceased’s surviving family members or the deceased’s estate. In a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, family members may be compensated for the losses they have suffered, or will suffer, as a result of the loss of their loved one.

In a wrongful death claim, damages commonly sought include:

  • Lost income that the deceased would have provided to dependent family members.
  • Medical or funeral expenses surviving family members incurred due to the loss.
  • Loss of companionship, protection, and guidance from the decedent.
  • Mental and emotional damages stemming from the loss of a child.

When awarding these damages, a jury needs to examine various factors related to the case, including the relationship between the decedent (the person who died) and the survivors. The value of the decedent’s likely income until retirement age and the value of other services they would have provided will also be analyzed.

What is a survival action?

A survival action can be brought by the personal representative of the deceased against the party who allegedly caused the death. The damages sought in a survival claim are used to recover any losses the deceased suffered before they passed away. These are damages they would have recovered had they survived.

For a survival claim to exist, a person must have lived for a period of time between the accident that caused their fatal injuries and their death. The idea behind a survival claim is that a person’s right to file a lawsuit against another person’s negligence survives them, even if the incident was fatal.

In these claims, any damages awarded do not go to specific family members. The compensation will do to the decedent’s estate because the person who died is who these damages are meant to compensate.

In a survival claim, damages commonly sought include:

  • Costs of medical care for injuries resulting from the accident.
  • Lost wages incurred from the time of injury to the time of the victim’s death.
  • Pain and suffering by the decedent before their death.

When awarding these damages, a jury will consider several factors. This can include the severity of the deceased’s pain and suffering before they died, the period of time they suffered from incident to death, and the victim’s apprehension they would have felt as they approached death.

Both of these claims matter

The main difference between wrongful death and survival claims is that a victim’s family members are compensated for their loss due to the death in a wrongful death claim, while the survival claim is meant to cover damages incurred by the decedent prior to their death. It is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible after the loss of a loved one in order to ensure your rights are upheld and you secure the compensation you are entitled to.