Wrongful Death vs Survival Action

Losing a loved one because of someone else's carelessness is an unimaginable tragedy that leaves families with sadness and complicated legal issues. But what can you do when things are this heartbreaking?

If you've ever wondered about the crucial distinctions between wrongful death vs. survival action, you've come to the right place. In this article, we shed light on these legal terms.

We hope this offers clarity and understanding to help you navigate difficult times. Keep reading to learn more.

Purpose of the Action

A wrongful death is meant to help make up for the emotional and financial harm that the death of a loved one has caused. The people affected here are the family members still alive after their death.

It considers the sadness, loss of companionship, and reliance on money that the living family members are going through. They will try to lighten their load after the tragic loss. 

On the other hand, a survival action looks at the damage done to the dead person between the time they were hurt and the time they died. This lawsuit is trying to get the damages that the person who died would have been able to call if they had lived. 


In a wrongful death case, the claimants usually lose a family member because of someone else's carelessness or wrongdoing. Most of the time, the people who get the most money from a lawsuit settlement are those in the person's close family, like a spouse, child, or parent.

In a survival case, the person who sues is the person's estate. A personal representative or executor brings the case on behalf of the estate. This person is usually named in the will of the deceased person or by the court. Damages won in a survival action become part of the estate of the person who has died.

Nature of the Claim

A wrongful death claim is about how the death of a loved one caused the remaining family members to lose money or other things. It acknowledges that the untimely death caused the family to feel mental pain and loss of support and companionship. In such cases, seeking guidance and representation from an experienced wrongful death attorney is crucial to navigating the legal complexities.

On the other hand, a survival action is about the harm that the person who died had to go through before they died. It tries to compensate for the decedent's injuries, pain, suffering, and financial losses from the accident until their death.

Types of Damages

Damages asked for in a wrongful death lawsuit usually cover a range of things. Commonly, these are connected to the losses the surviving family members have had to deal with. The remaining family members may be compensated for funeral and burial costs, loss of financial support, companionship, mental anguish, and emotional pain.

In a survival action, the damages sought are more about the losses the dead person had before they died. They can include medical bills for treating injuries and money to compensate for the pain and suffering the person went through. They can also include lost wages or income because they couldn't work while hurting and any other losses the person directly suffered because of what the defendant did.

Statute of Limitations

The time you have to file a lawsuit for wrongful death varies by state and is generally shorter than when you file a lawsuit for survival. This means that the family members who are still alive after the death of their loved one have a certain amount of time to start the case. If you don't file within the time limit, you might lose the right to file a claim for wrongful killing.

A survival action usually has a longer time limit than a claim for wrongful death. Since the survival case is about the damages the deceased person got before they died, the clock usually starts ticking on the date of the injury. 

Distribution of Damages

In a lawsuit for wrongful death, the court decides how the money is split between the living family members and people who depend on them. The court will examine how much each family member depended on the person who died, how close they were to the person who died, and how much money and happiness each person lost because of the death.

In a survival action, the damages won are added to the estate of the person who has died, and their distribution is based on the person's will or the state's laws of intestacy if there is no will. The money from the case goes to the people named in the will or chosen by state law as the estate's beneficiaries.


Evidence and Witnesses

In a wrongful death case, the evidence and witnesses often focus on how the death affected the surviving family members mentally, how close the person who died was to the family, and how the defendant's carelessness or crime led to the death.

In a survival action, the facts and witnesses are more interested in what happened before the person died and what damage they did before they died. This can include medical records, expert comments, and other evidence of the decedent's pain while they were still alive after the event that caused their death.

Proof of Causation

For an accidental death claim to be successful, the client must show that the defendant's actions directly led to the victim's death. To win the case, there must be a clear link between what the offender did and what happened that killed someone.

In a survival action, it is up to the client to prove that the decedent's losses were caused by the defendant's acts or lack of care before they died. This could mean showing that the defendant's actions caused the deceased's injuries and losses during their lives, even if they died later because of something else.

Unraveling the Difference Between Wrongful Death vs Survival Action

In conclusion, it is vital to understand the difference between wrongful death vs survival action. Criminal death cases are intended to provide families compensation for their loss. Survival actions are meant to give the injured person's estate the funds to compensate for medical bills or other damages caused by the injury.

Contacting a knowledgeable lawyer is the first step to understanding your legal options.

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