Survival Actions vs. Wrongful Death Claims: What’s the Difference?

Survival Actions vs. Wrongful Death Claims: What’s the Difference?

Survival Actions vs. Wrongful Death Claims: What’s the Difference?

Introduction

When a person loses their life due to the negligence or wrongful actions of another party, their surviving family members may have legal avenues to seek compensation for their losses and hold the responsible party accountable. Two common legal mechanisms for pursuing such compensation are survival actions and wrongful death claims. While these legal remedies share similarities, they serve different purposes and address distinct aspects of a fatal incident. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key differences between survival actions and wrongful death claims, including their purposes, eligibility criteria, and the damages they seek to recover.

I. Survival Actions: Seeking Compensation for the Deceased Person

A survival action is a legal claim brought on behalf of the deceased person’s estate to seek compensation for the damages they suffered as a result of their injuries before their death. Survival actions are focused on the harm experienced by the deceased person during the period between the injury and their passing.

Key Features of Survival Actions:

Compensation for the Deceased Person: The primary objective of a survival action is to secure compensation for the damages, injuries, and losses endured by the deceased person between the time of their injury and their death.

Continuation of the Deceased Person’s Legal Claims: In a survival action, the legal claims of the deceased person are continued on their behalf by the personal representative or executor of their estate. This allows for the pursuit of claims that the deceased person may have initiated or could have pursued had they survived.

Separate from Wrongful Death Claims: Survival actions are distinct from wrongful death claims. While wrongful death claims focus on the losses suffered by surviving family members, survival actions concentrate solely on the damages suffered by the deceased person.

Common Situations for Survival Actions:

Survival actions can arise from various situations, including:

Personal injury accidents, such as car crashes or slip and falls, where the deceased person sustained injuries that contributed to their death.
Medical malpractice cases resulting in the patient’s death, seeking compensation for the harm caused by the medical error before their passing.
Workplace accidents leading to injuries that later lead to the worker’s death, addressing the losses and suffering experienced by the deceased worker before their death.
Product liability incidents where a defective product causes injuries, ultimately resulting in the victim’s death, seeking compensation for the pain and suffering endured due to the product defect.

II. Wrongful Death Claims: Seeking Compensation for Surviving Family Members

A wrongful death claim, on the other hand, is a legal action brought by surviving family members or beneficiaries to seek compensation for the losses they have suffered due to the death of their loved one. Wrongful death claims focus on the damages endured by surviving family members, both financial and emotional, as a result of the loss.

Key Features of Wrongful Death Claims:

Compensation for Surviving Family Members: The primary goal of a wrongful death claim is to provide compensation to surviving family members for their losses, including loss of companionship, financial support, and emotional suffering.

Brought by Surviving Family Members: Wrongful death claims are typically initiated by surviving family members, such as spouses, children, or parents, who have suffered the loss of their loved one.

Direct Compensation for Surviving Family Members: Damages recovered in a wrongful death claim are distributed among the surviving family members or beneficiaries directly, based on their relationship with the deceased person and their individual losses.

Common Situations for Wrongful Death Claims:

Wrongful death claims can arise from various scenarios, including:

Fatal car accidents caused by the negligence of another driver, leading to claims on behalf of surviving family members.
Medical malpractice resulting in a patient’s death, leading to claims by the deceased patient’s family members.
Workplace accidents leading to fatal injuries, resulting in claims filed by the family of the deceased worker.
Acts of violence, including assault or homicide, causing the death of an individual, leading to claims by their surviving family members.

III. Key Differences between Survival Actions and Wrongful Death Claims

While both survival actions and wrongful death claims seek compensation in cases involving a person’s death, they differ significantly in terms of their objectives, who can bring the claims, and the types of damages they aim to recover. Here are the key differences between the two legal mechanisms:

1. Focus and Purpose:

Survival Actions: Focus on the damages suffered by the deceased person before their death, seeking compensation for their pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses during the period between the injury and death.

Wrongful Death Claims: Concentrate on the losses suffered by surviving family members or beneficiaries, including loss of companionship, financial support, and emotional suffering resulting from the death.

2. Initiator of the Claim:

Survival Actions: Initiated by the personal representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate. The claim continues the legal actions that the deceased person could have pursued.

Wrongful Death Claims: Brought by surviving family members or beneficiaries who have suffered the loss due to the death of their loved one.

3. Damages Recovered:

Survival Actions: Recover damages that become part of the deceased person’s estate and may be distributed to their heirs or beneficiaries. These damages typically include medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other economic and non-economic losses experienced by the deceased person.

Wrongful Death Claims: Recover damages that are distributed directly to surviving family members or beneficiaries. These damages often include compensation for loss of companionship, financial support, and emotional suffering.

4. Legal Objectives:

Survival Actions: Seek to address the harm suffered by the deceased person and provide compensation for their injuries and losses during the period leading up to their death.

Wrongful Death Claims: Aim to provide compensation to surviving family members or beneficiaries for their own losses and suffering resulting from the death of their loved one.

IV. Conclusion: Complementary Legal Remedies

Survival actions and wrongful death claims are complementary legal remedies that serve different but interconnected purposes in cases involving a person’s death due to negligence or wrongful actions. While survival actions focus on the damages suffered by the deceased person, wrongful death claims center on the losses experienced by surviving family members.

It’s essential to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in personal injury and wrongful death law when pursuing either a survival action or a wrongful death claim. Legal guidance can help you navigate the complexities of these legal mechanisms and ensure that your rights and interests are protected during a challenging and emotionally taxing time. Understanding the differences between these two legal remedies will empower you to make informed decisions about the appropriate course of action for your specific circumstances and seek the compensation and justice you deserve.

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