Survival Action Versus Wrongful Death

What is the Difference Between Survival Action and Wrongful Death Lawsuits?


In 2016 the number of injury-related deaths reached 161,374 and in more recent years has become the third most common cause of death in the United States.

Tragically, it is all too common for a person to lose their life as a result of someone else’s negligent or intentional conduct. While no amount of money can substitute the loss of a loved one, it’s important for the deceased’s families to know their options for recovering compensation. These types of lawsuits are most commonly filed by a representative of the estate, on behalf of family members and other affected parties.

The two forms of civil action regarding injury-related deaths, “wrongful death” and “survival action” are both intended to ease the family’s financial stress after such casualties. Both wrongful death and survival action lawsuits are statutory and governed by state law.However,, there is a distinction between the two.  So, what is the difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival action?

Simply put, Wrongful Death and Survival Action cases result in different types of damages to be awarded to the estate.


Wrongful Death

The main type of damage resulting from wrongful death is the loss of support for all family members whom the deceased supported financially – both immediately and for the period of time into the future that the deceased would have supported them. However, in order for the beneficiaries to receive such damages for loss of support, they must prove that the deceased supported them financially. For information on how to prove dependency of a child click here.

Additional damages may include:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of guidance and nurture
  • Punitive damages
  • Loss of companionship, assistance, affection, protection, comfort and care

Beneficiaries of a wrongful death claims can be the immediate family and/or loved ones of the victim. In a case where there is no spouse, children, or parents, a more distant relative can file the claim.

Examples of possible causes:

  • Criminal act
  • Police brutality
  • Medical malpractice
  • Automobile accident
  • Defective products
  • Defective roads or construction
  • Exposure to toxic substances

The financial hardships caused by the loss of the victim as well as the grief, sorrow, and mental anguish caused by his or her death are not usually considered in a wrongful death lawsuit. Additionally, the property damages, medical expenses, and other losses incurred before the victim’s death are also not included.


Survival Action

A survival action lawsuit can only be filed if the decedent did not immediately die from his or her injuries and allows beneficiaries to be awarded damages they could have received had the deceased lived.

When someone dies, their assets and debts become a part of their estate.  

Survival action allows the successor (or the person who is inheriting the estate) to file a claim on behalf of estate of the victim to obtain reimbursement or compensation for any expenses or losses incurred while he or she was injured.

Survival damages may consist of not only the deceased’s pain and suffering, but also lost earnings until his/her death.

Damages can include:

  • Medical care
  • Punitive damages
  • Lost wages

In order to file a survival action and recover compensation, the victim must have lived for at least a brief period of time between the accident and their death. The damages included in the statute are those that the deceased would have been entitled to recover had he or she lived.

The one big limitation is that a survival action does not allow someone to obtain damages for “pain, suffering, or disfigurement.”

Examples of possible causes:

  • Dying while in the ambulance
  • Death during a coma
  • Death during attempted resuscitation

Time is a critical factor when dealing with wrongful death and survival action cases. Filing quickly will increase the amount of compensation you can receive. However, after a tragic loss, the details of the claim can be frustrating and difficult to handle. At this time, your highest priority should be the emotional wellbeing of yourself and your family. Let an experienced law firm like Jacoby and Meyers handle the details of the claim; so you can focus on caring for yourself and your loved ones.

The Jacoby & Meyers team is made up of reputable attorneys who specialize in accidents and wrongful death. Contact Jacoby & Meyers for a 100% free consultation at (888) 522-6291 today.