What Is the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Survival Action?

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The legal ramifications can be extensive when a person dies due to the negligent actions of another person or party. Two of the main ways the surviving family members can secure compensation for the wrongful death of another family member hinge on the wrongful death laws and survival action laws in the state in which the family resides.

Wrongful death claims and survival actions are similar, and a wrongful death may result in both. While a wrongful death claim seeks to repay the beneficiaries of a deceased individual’s estate after a wrongful death, survival actions repay the surviving family for the damages the deceased could have recovered if he or she had survived. Read on to learn more about the difference between the two, or speak with an experienced Long Beach wrongful death lawyer.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death laws outline who may file a wrongful death claim, how long they have to file such a claim and the damages available. The deceased’s beneficiaries receive the damages in a wrongful death claim, which can include:

  • Loss of affection, guidance, care, and nurturing provided by the deceased
  • Loss of consortium for the spouse or domestic partner of the deceased
  • Lost household services provided by the deceased
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of financial support provided by the deceased. Claimants will need to prove the amount and frequency of received support. For example, an ex-spouse who relied on child support for the deceased’s child will likely need to produce the custody and support agreement.
  • Medical expenses for the deceased’s final illness or injury
  • Punitive damages. If the defendant in a wrongful death case showed a reckless disregard for the safety and welfare of others with his or her behavior or showed gross negligence that resulted in the death in question, then the jury may award punitive damages to discourage similar behavior in the future. Punitive damages reflect the personal finances of a defendant, so a wealthy defendant should expect to pay much more than a defendant with limited assets.

It’s important to remember that some states cap or limit the damages available to plaintiffs in wrongful death claims. For a wrongful death claim in California, it’s wise to have a Long Beach injury attorney review your claim and the deceased’s estate to determine the best course of action. If a wrongful death resulted from medical malpractice, the state places a limit on the damages available to plaintiffs in such cases. There may also be multiple avenues of compensation available after the wrongful death of a loved one.

What Is a Survival Action?

A wrongful death claim compensates the beneficiaries of an estate after a wrongful death, but a survival action generally offer compensation for the damages the deceased would have been eligible to collect had he or she survived. Damages available through survival actions can include the physical and/or emotional suffering and pain experienced by the deceased during the illness or injury until the time of death.

If there was time between the deceased’s fatal incident and the actual death, then a survival action may also help secure compensation for the wages lost during that time. For example, if a man suffered a severe spinal injury from a car accident that prevented him from working for several months and later died from complications related to the injury, then the survival action would encompass the wages lost during that time. If he had died instantly, then the estate would not qualify for lost wages.

The legal questions can become overwhelming after a wrongful death. An experienced attorney can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of a claim and help you and your family members recover after the untimely death of a loved one. Your lawyer can also help you fully understand the scope of the damages you might receive from a successful wrongful death claim or survival action.