The death of a loved one is always tragic. However, when the death is the result of negligence or the purposeful acts of someone else the resulting pain is life-shattering. In these situations, loved ones or heirs to the estate of the victim can file a wrongful death suit, or more specifically a survival action. While these terms may be thrown around as though they mean the same thing, there are differences that a would-be plaintiff should know and understand.

Wrongful Death Versus Survival Action

Wrongful death laws allow the estate of a decedent to bring a lawsuit against the negligent or at fault party. Therefore, these laws give grieving families the opportunity to seek damages due to the loss of life. These cases are civil in nature and therefore deal with financial restitution. While both wrongful death and survival suits are covered under the umbrella of wrongful death law, they differ significantly in the types of damages awarded to the estate.

  • Wrongful Death – A wrongful death suit seeks damages for the survivors or beneficiaries of the estate. These suits are brought by those claimants who were financially affected by the untimely passing of the decedent.
  • Survival Action – A survival suit seeks restitution for money and damages that the decedent would have been able to recover had it not been for the negligent actions of the defendant. Therefore, a survival action allows for damages to be awarded for lost earnings and pain and suffering.

Who Can File

While anyone may file typical lawsuits, a survival action can only be filed by the heirs to the estate or the closest living relative. In other words, these types of actions can only be filed by those who were immediately affected financially and emotionally by the untimely passing of their loved one or benefactor.

Damages Allowed

A survival action is only permitted when the decedent dies sometime after the negligent act occurred. For instance, if a person is hit by a drunken driver but does not die until days, months or years after the incident. When this occurs, an estate can file on behalf of the deceased because the claim survives the death. These claims, however, are limited to only seeking specific types of damages on behalf of the decedent.

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages

A death caused by the neglect of someone else is devastating for those who survive, but wrongful death laws do provide ways for heirs to seek restitution. If you want to file a survival action on behalf of a deceased loved one, then contact a local wrongful death attorney to discuss your options.