How a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action Differ

The Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action

After the death of a loved one, the family can file a wrongful death lawsuit or a survival action against the at-fault party responsible for an intentional or negligent act. While both involve the same person, they are very different from one another. The main difference focuses on whose behalf the claim is filed. Both are important issues your family might consider after the death of a loved one, so let’s examine what comprises these claims, how they differ, and how they can help.

Our Firm Stands Alongside Our Clients in Difficult Times has helped clients in Benicia, Sacramento, and much of Northern California when their loved one died due to negligence or an intentional act. We’ve provided the compassionate representation and legal insight the family needs when the unthinkable happens. No one should settle for any less. We do our best to investigate the accident, determine liability and see how the negligent or intentional act led to your loved one’s demise. We refuse to let families suffer both emotional and financial damages.

Call us at (707) 564-1900 or (800) 404-5400 to schedule a free case consultation. We will review your claim, answer all your questions and give you your options moving forward. At our firm, we realize that nothing can make the passing of a loved one hurt less, nor will it fill the void the grieving family feels. It does give you the ability to grieve without financial concerns by recovering the support the decedent provided, and it gives you a sense of closure when the at-fault party is taken to task. 

Watch the following video by attorney Ed Smith who explains what is meant by a wrongful death claim:

A Wrongful Death Claim

When a loved one dies due to an external factor that happened because of another person’s or entity’s actions, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against that person. The claim can help the family meet the deluge of end-of-life expenses and other losses the loved one’s death precipitated, such as:

  • Funeral and burial expenses are part of a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Wages the decedent would have earned until the time of retirement can be recovered.
  • The pensions, benefits, and commissions the deceased would have received until they retired from their job can be claimed.
  • The lost guidance, training, inheritance, and love the decedent’s children would have received had the deceased lived can be claimed.
  • The decedent’s spouse can file a companion claim for the love, consortium, and support they lost because of their loved one’s demise.
  • The family can also request punitive damages by filing a survival action against the at-fault party.

Survival Action

A survival action is filed by the estate against the at-fault party. It does not seek compensation for the family’s losses but rather seeks to compensate the decedent for the injuries he/she suffered prior to their death. In this way, the personal injury damages the decedent suffered survived his or her death, hence the name survival action. 

The time period between the accident and the person’s death can be short or extended for days, weeks, or months, and the injuries that are being compensated must be caused by the accident. The survival action covers the suffering, pain, and loss the person experienced. 

In California, punitive damages cannot be requested in a wrongful death lawsuit. Such damages are usually greater than those in a wrongful death lawsuit and are meant to punish the at-fault party for an egregious act. This includes driving drunk in some cases. However, punitive damages can be requested in a survival action, and the amount of damages is the decision of the court or jury. A survival action can be filed simultaneously with a wrongful death lawsuit. It is important to speak with your wrongful death attorney to see if you can file both a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action.

Benicia Wrongful Death Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Benicia wrongful death lawyer. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, you might need the legal insight I can provide. Call me at (707) 564-1900 or (800) 404-5400, or reach out to me online

I’ve helped many residents of Benicia and the surrounding area since 1982 and continue to do that today in auto accidents, wrongful deaths, brain injuries, and truck crashes, to name a few.

Learn more about my practice by using the following links:

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Photo attribution:; Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

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