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The Difference Between Wrongful Death and Survival Actions

Difference Between Wrongful Death and Survival Actions

The untimely death of a family member due to an accident or wrongful act is emotionally devastating and can cause survivors real and lasting harm. No amount of money can make up for the loss, but there are legal remedies available. In Pennsylvania, two types of claims can be brought, known as wrongful death actions and survival actions. Each of them has a different basis and can recover different types of damages. 

A wrongful death action (also known simply as a “death action”) is meant to compensate the family of a decedent for their economic and non-economic losses. The decedent’s spouse, children and/or parents can sue for wrongful death. Recoverable damages include monetary losses, such as financial support the deceased would have provided, as well as intangible losses of companionship, society and comfort. Pennsylvania case law has extended the scope of wrongful death damages to include the emotional and psychological suffering of surviving family members.

In contrast, a survival action is any cause of action or proceeding, real or personal, that the decedent could have pursued had he or she survived the incident. They include any lawsuits that the decedent had brought against any defendant. A survival action is initiated by the decedent's personal representative or executor. Any damages recovered are directed to the decedent’s estate and distributed according to his or her will or to state intestacy law.

In essence, while wrongful death actions seek to alleviate the suffering of surviving family members by compensating them for their losses, survival actions serve to uphold the rights and interests of the deceased individual. Although the same family members may be the ultimate recipients, the key distinction is that survival action damages are those of the decedent. Those damages typically include the decedent’s medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering endured prior to death. 

Wrongful death and survival claims can sometimes be consolidated in the same lawsuit. For example, the decedent may have filed negligence claims over accident injuries that later proved to be fatal. Those claims would be joined in the wrongful death action. The damages awarded in the overall lawsuit would be allocated fairly between the wrongful death and survival claims.

An experienced Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney can determine the proper legal actions to be brought and can make the strongest possible case for fair compensation for family members and for the decedent’s estate.

Phil DiLucente & Associates, LLC in Pittsburgh represents estate representatives and beneficiaries in Pennsylvania wrongful death actions. You can set up a free consultation by calling [ln::phone] or contacting us online

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