When someone is lost due to a situation of someone else’s negligence, the family can be left with grief, legal trouble, and financial hardship. In 2017, nearly 170,000 people suffered a “wrongful death” of some sort in the U.S. alone.

There are some forms of legal recourse that families can take in such a situation (though they vary by state). Taking legal action can help recover damages and ease some of the burden on the family.

There are two primary options that families have when it comes to a negligent death. These are “survival action” and “wrongful death”.



Many people don’t know about survival action, or even that these two options are options at all. Then they’re left dealing with legal confusion during a very stressful period of life.

If you want to learn about the difference between wrongful death vs survival action claims, keep reading.


What is a Survival Action Claim?

A survival action claim almost pretends as if the deceased person is still alive when going after the defendant for damages.

While a wrongful death claim focuses on the family and the bereaved, the survival action claim focuses on the person to whom the offense happened, even if they can no longer technically benefit from the suit.

When a survival action suit is happening, the estate goes after damages based on the deceased’s pain and suffering prior to their death, their medical bills, and their lost earnings (as though they were still alive, similar to a basic personal injury case).

Wrongful Death vs Survival Action: The Differences Explained

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death claims are the most common kinds of claims made during an accidental or negligent death.

They are typically focused around the survivors of the person who has passed, including their family or beneficiaries. The claims are largely for financial damages, including income lost, hospital bills (or other medical expenses), funeral or other post-mortem expenses, and anything specific to the manner of the death itself.

Wrongful death cases can also account for damages due to grief, distress, and emotional harm rather than just monetary damages. A good lawyer can provide a great explanation for those who need more insight.



So What’s the Difference?

These may seem similar on the surface, so what’s the difference?

Well, for one, the damages from the cases tend to go to different places. The family will receive damages from a wrongful death case, typically, while a survival action case will see damages spread throughout the estate of the deceased. These might end up being the same.

The person filing the wrongful death claim tends to be a family member, while a survival action claim is filed by the executor of the deceased’s estate.

Survival action will act as though the deceased is still alive and award “them” pain and suffering and lost wages for the time spent in the hospital. They may not, however, get lost future wages or support for children (where wrongful death claims may get this support if it can be proven that the deceased supported the family).

On a very basic level, a survival action claim acts very much like a personal injury claim.

Wrongful Death vs Survival Action: The Differences Explained

In Times of Grief, Which Do You Choose?

When you’re grieving, it’s hard to know what the right choice is when it comes to pursuing justice and damages. Survival action or wrongful death? Sometimes the choice might not be yours. Talking to a lawyer about your situation is a good first step to getting the peace of mind that you deserve.

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