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What is the Difference Between a Survival Action and Wrongful Death?

Understanding the difference between a survival action and a wrongful death claim can clarify what type of compensation is available to grieving families.


  • Many families who lose a loved one to the negligent actions of another party aren’t familiar with the difference between a survival action and a wrongful death claim
  • clarifies compensation avenues for grieving families.
  • Wrongful death occurs due to another’s negligence, prompting claims for both economic and non-economic damages for the plaintiff.
  • Survival actions continue legal claims initiated by the deceased, aiming to recover damages they couldn’t pursue.
  • Wrongful death claims focus on damages incurred by the family, while survival actions address damages suffered by the deceased before death.
  • Damages sought include medical bills, lost wages, funeral costs, and non-economic losses like pain and suffering. Hiring a lawyer is essential for navigating these complexities and maximizing compensation.

Tragedy can strike at any time when someone is on the road, going for a walk, or undergoing a surgical procedure. Someone can suffer an unexpected death, and their family members will have to live with grief and the economic damages caused by their untimely passing. 

If their wrongful death was caused by the negligence or recklessness of another party, the family could file a wrongful death claim to pursue compensation for economic and non-economic damages. 

Another way for the family to recover compensation for their deceased loved one’s damages is through a survival action. Survival actions are continuations of existing legal claims filed by the deceased party prior to their death. 

Family members can pursue compensation for what their loved one would have been owed if they had lived. Jones Law Group can offer top-notch legal assistance informed by our years of experience as personal injury lawyers.

Reach out to our team to set up a free consultation by calling (727) 571-1333 or filling out a contact form through our website.

Family Members Can Recover Compensation for a Loved One’s Wrongful Death

Wrongful death is when a person passes away due to another person’s negligent or reckless actions. Their family can experience mental and emotional issues and have to account for the economic fallout of their loved one’s death. 

The family can file a wrongful death claim to hold the at-fault party accountable for their reckless behavior that led to their loved one’s death.

Most wrongful deaths occur because of a personal injury accident where a reckless party fails to behave safely. They breached the duty of care they owed your family member, which is the requirement to behave safely and prevent others from experiencing harm. 

By breaching their duty of care, they exposed your loved one to enough harm to lead to their wrongful death. The following are some personal injury incidents that can cause wrongful death:

What is a Survival Action?

One way a family can pursue compensation after their loved one passes away is through a survival action. Before their family member died, the deceased may have filed a personal injury claim to pursue compensation for damages from an at-fault party. 

This claim may have had something to do with their eventual death or can be unconnected. Pursuing a survival action allows the family to recover compensation from the prior personal injury claim that the deceased was not able to recover compensatory damages.

A survival action allows the family to recover compensation for damages incurred from the time of their initial injury until their death. Non-economic damages the family suffers because of their loved one’s death are not accounted for in a survival action. 

Survival action damages normally include the medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering the deceased experienced before they died.

How Do Wrongful Death Claims and Survival Actions Differ?

Wrongful death claims and survival actions differ because the family does not file a survival action from the beginning, as they would with a wrongful death claim. When filing a wrongful death claim, the family establishes the legal procedure rather than continuing from a personal injury claim that was already filed.

The other major difference is that the family cannot recover compensation for their damages through a survival action, but rather the damages the deceased suffered before their death. 

For example, the family could recover compensation for their deceased loved one’s pain and suffering from a catastrophic injury with a survival action. However, by pursuing a survival action, the family is not allowed to recover compensation for their own pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.

What Damages Can Family Members Recover After a Loved One’s Death?

Whether the family files a wrongful death claim or pursues a survival action, they can pursue compensation for damages caused by their family member’s death. Most family members will focus on the economic damages that stem from the wrongful death. 

Economic damages encompass financial losses like those having to do with medical treatment, wage losses, and funeral costs. They can also pursue compensation for non-economic damages. These are intangible costs that reflect how the family’s quality of life has declined. 

A family member’s death can lead to a deprivation of benefits in the form of love, affection, parental support, and intimacy. Family members can pursue compensation for damages that have to do with the loss of connection caused by wrongful death.

The following are some damages family members can pursue after a loved one’s death:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of society

Hiring a Wrongful Death Lawyer to Help Recover Compensation for Damages

Following a family member’s wrongful death, the surviving family should hire a wrongful death lawyer for help exploring legal options. 

The difference between a survival action and wrongful death claims can be confusing. An experienced personal injury lawyer can thoroughly explain the family’s options for pursuing compensatory damages.

They can also help with the process of wrongful death claims or survival actions, advising the family at every step. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can maximize a family’s potential for recovering fair compensatory damages for their loved one’s unexpected death.

The following are some ways a personal injury lawyer can help a grieving family:

  • Calculate the wrongful death damages
  • Determine if they should file a wrongful death claim or pursue a survival action
  • Contact the lawyers involved in a personal injury claim from before the family member’s death
  • Assess liability
  • Explain the family’s rights and laws affecting their situation
  • Collect evidence to prove their wrongful death case
  • Negotiate a fair settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company
  • Represent them in court

Contact Jones Law Group With Questions About the Difference Between a Survival Action and Wrongful Death Claims

The wrongful death lawyers at Jones Law Group have helped clients requiring compensation for wrongful death after a car accident, slip-and-fall, or other personal injury accident. 

We will rely on our decades of experience to help if your loved one suffered an untimely death due to the negligence of another party. Our wrongful death lawyers can explain who can file the claim and whether a survival action is more appropriate.

At Jones Law Group, we will also guide you through what steps you should take to help with your family’s financial recovery. Contact us for a free wrongful death consultation today at (727) 571-1333 or fill out a contact form to get started.  

About the Author

Heath Murphy is a partner at Jones Law Group and focuses on personal injury law. He has been working as a lawyer for 18 years and routinely writes about auto accidents, wrongful death, and personal injury laws.

Read more: Heath’s Bio