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Survival Action vs Wrongful Death Lawsuits

What is the Difference Between Survival Action and Wrongful Death? Explained by the Best Wrongful Death Attorneys

Survival actions and wrongful death are strictly governed under state law. Basically, the existence of both actions exists due to the state approving laws that permit these two claims. 


  • Survival Action. Permits the estate to receive damages the deceased victim would have gotten if they were alive. This is only applicable in situations where the victim survived for a short-period of time after the incident that resulted in their death. This includes penalties, punitive damages, or exemplary damages that the decedent would have received if they had lived. Timing plays an important role when it comes to survival action. An example would be an individual who is suffering from a spinal cord injury after getting into a serious car accident due to their vehicle having a faulty issue. The individual was not physically able to go back to work and passed away months after their accident. If the individual passed away immediately after the accident, then the estate would be qualified to receive that person’s lost wages. 
  • Wrongful Death. Allows the victim’s surviving family and other parties to be entitled to damages for wrongful death. Damages include:
    • Funeral and burial expenses, 
    • Medical expenses and hospital bills,
    • Punitive damages,
    • Loss of financial support,
    • Loss of consortium,
    • Loss of the victim’s services had they been alive, or
    • Loss of love, protection, affection, and support. 

Wrongful death cases may be awarded to:

    • Significant other. The deceased victim’s spouse or registered domestic partner typically files a claim for lost companionship and emotional distress due to the victim’s death.
    • Children. Generally minor children would be awarded damages for the lost benefits, comfort, and support from losing their parent(s). 
    • Parents. Parents who have minor children that died may receive damages for experiencing emotional distress and the lost relationship of their children. 

Punitive damages may also be awarded if there is proof of the suspect exhibiting acts of negligent and reckless behavior that resulted in the victim’s death. However, these damages are not given in a wrongful death lawsuit. This may only apply in a survival cause of action.

Statute Of Limitations

Survival action and wrongful death have similar statute of limitations. There is a two year time period for a wrongful death lawsuit to be initiated starting from the date of the wrongful act first being committed. Basically, an individual who is injured, but does not pass away immediately, could have their estate or immediate family file a lawsuit against the suspect. 

Exceeding the two year period will restrict their rights to file a claim. For survival action, if the deceased victim passed away immediately after the negligent act was committed, then there will be a six month time period starting from the initial date of the accident. For wrongful death, the time period to file a claim for this situation would be one year. 

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out of pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries. 

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out of pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain And Suffering
  • Loss Of Enjoyment Of Life

Punitive Damages

The third type of damages a California court may award is known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact, were only incorporated in 5% of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Limitations For Damages In California 

For the most part, there is no real cap on compensatory damages following a personal injury claim. This means that courts are able to award any amount they feel is appropriate and reasonable.

However, the only exception is regarding medical malpractice cases. In these cases, the limit for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses is $250,000.

Contact Us

If your loved one was a victim of wrongful death, West Coast Trial Lawyers has experienced wrongful death attorneys that will provide their full commitment in making sure that you get the justice you deserve.Our attorneys will help you recover financial and emotional compensation for the damages you have suffered. This includes medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. There are no financial risks involved when you use our services. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation at our firm. No fees are charged until your case is settled. Reach out to our legal team 24/7 by calling (213) 927-3700 or emailing [email protected] 


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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