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

One of the biggest issues in a wrongful death lawsuit is related specifically to the types of compensation to the decedent’s estate or beneficiaries. The term for monetary awards in a lawsuit is “damages.” Damages awarded in a wrongful death action are directly related to the death of your loved one. However, if he or she did not pass away at the scene of the accident, then the State may agree that the deceased’s estate is entitled to damages incurred leading up to his or her death.

These types of lawsuits are called survival actions. In this article, we are going to examine the key differences between wrongful death and survival action awards.

Two Major Differences Between Wrongful Death and Survival Actions

There are two major differences between wrongful death and survival laws. First, wrongful death laws allow the estate to bring a claim and set forth the legal treatment for bringing a wrongful death suit. Second, survival and wrongful death laws allow different types of damages to be awarded to the estate.

In short, wrongful death laws permit the estate to be granted monetary damages for decedent’s beneficiaries. Survival laws authorize an award of damages to the estate that the decedent could have recuperated if he or she had not died. 

Damages in Wrongful Death and Survival Actions

Wrongful death claims are strictly governed by state law, so there are specific remedies to address in court. These types of issues include:

  • Who can submit a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate
  • How a person is designated to represent the estate
  • What types of damages are allowed a wrongful death case

A personal representative may submit a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent. Usually, he or she is a close relative such as a spouse, adult child, or parent named in an estate plan. However, if there is no will or family members contest the will, a judge will hear the facts and appoint a personal representative by court order.

Types of Wrongful Death Damages

Wrongful death damages are typically granted to beneficiaries. The most common type of wrongful death damages is loss of support for immediate family members. The spouse of the deceased could receive damages for loss of companionship and services around the house performed by the decedent. Further, minor children could be awarded damages for the loss of guidance stemming from the death of their parent(s). Damages for the deceased’s funeral service and burial expenses are also included as well.

The estate may also be entitled to punitive damages if the responsible party acted with excessive negligence. 

Types of Survival Action Damages

A survival action can seek damages that were incurred from the time of injury until the time of death. This means that survival damages could include not only pain and suffering, but also lost income. If, however, the departed passed away immediately as an outcome of an accident, then the estate may be entitled to pain and suffering but not for the deceased’s lost wages.

Speaking with a Wrongful Death Attorney


If a loved one has passed due to the negligence or recklessness of another, speaking with a Las Vegas wrongful death attorney may help ease your burden while recovering maximum damages. Contact the experienced injury attorneys at the Matt Pfau Law Group today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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