What is the Difference Between Survivor Actions and Wrongful Death?

When someone is killed because of another person’s actions, they and their loved ones have several options for legal recourse.  The details of the circumstances surrounding the death set the stage for what those options are.  Two possibilities are Survivor Actions or Wrongful Death cases.  The difference between these two actions can be confusing, but they are fundamentally distinct.  A wrongful death action allows you to pursue compensation for the person’s death, lost future income, and your own emotional suffering.  In California, a survival action allows the estate/personal representative to seek damages sustained or incurred before death including penalties or punitive damages, but do not include compensation for pain and suffering during the time before death.

A survival action can be a suit that the decedent had filed, before they died, against the person who ultimately caused their death.  When this case is carried on by an executor it becomes a survival action.

Who can file each type of suit?

Only those close to the decedent can file a wrongful death suit.  This includes a spouse, parents, children, heirs, and so on.  Any legal representative,  can bring a survival action and the proceeds will be go to the Estate, and eventually be given to the decedent’s heirs, depending upon the claims against the estate.

What losses can be compensated?

A survival action compensates for the damage that the decedent themselves suffered by the event that caused their death in the time from the event itself until their death.  This means that they (as represented by a proxy) will be compensated for medical bills, penalties, punitive damages, loss of income, etc.

As you can see, the differences between the two cases are very nuanced, but they do exist.  The best way to ensure that the loss of your loved one and the pain they suffered is compensated for is to contact an experienced and dedicated lawyer.

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