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Difference Between a Wrongful Death and Survival Action Claim

Nothing is more traumatic than the loss of a loved one. While a wrongful death claim can never truly make things right, it does allow family members of the deceased an opportunity to receive justice, accountability and financial support. There is also a similar (but distinct) type of legal action called a survival action claim.

In some cases, plaintiffs may bring both survival action claims and wrongful death lawsuits against the at-fault defendant(s). This raises an important question: How is a survival action claim different? In this article, our Bay Area wrongful death attorneys offer a basic overview of survival action claims in California.

Survival Action Claims: Understanding California Law

Under state law (California Code of Civil Procedure 377.30), a survival action claim is meant to compensate the victim (deceased) for all damages that occurred between the moment of the wrongful act and the moment of their death. This is the primary difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival action claim: A wrongful death claim is meant to compensate family members of the victim for their losses, whereas a survival action claim is meant to compensate the deceased for what they endured before death. To best understand a survival action claim, think of it as a legal process, which allows a representative of the deceased to assume the legal rights they would have had — if they had survived the accident.

What Damages Can Be Recovered Through a Survival Action Claim in California?

Through a survival action claim, a personal representative of the deceased can recover financial compensation for all damages suffered between the accident and the victim’s passing. While a survival action claim may not be viable in a case where the death was instantaneous, it should be considered in any circumstance where there was a gap in time between the wrongful act and the victim’s death. Depending on the nature of the case, those damages may be significant. As a personal representative, you may be able to recover compensation for:

  • Medical bills incurred by the deceased;
  • Decedent’s pain and suffering;
  • Loss of income; and
  • Personal property damage or other economic losses.

While a survival action claim is designed to compensate the deceased, the actual financial damages will still be awarded to their estate — in many (but not all) cases, the plaintiffs in a survival action claim overlap with the plaintiffs in a corresponding wrongful death claim. These are no “either/or” cases, and you may be able to file both a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action lawsuit.

Call Our San Francisco Wrongful Death Lawyers for Immediate Assistance

At Bracamontes & Vlasak, our Northern California wrongful death team of lawyers provides reliable, high quality representation to clients. If you have questions about survival action claims, we can help. To arrange a no cost, no obligation consultation, please contact our law firm at (415) 835-6777. We handle wrongful death claims throughout the Bay Area, including in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, Santa Rosa, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.

Wrongful Death Attorney