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Wrongful Death Versus Survival Action Claims: How Do They Differ?

If someone dies due to the negligent or wrongful actions of another party, remaining family members may bring two types of claims, a wrongful death suit or a survival action suit.

It’s important to understand the difference between these two types. While both have to do with death due to negligence or wrong action, the types of compensation survivors may receive and other considerations vary.

Wrongful Death Claims in California

Wrongful Death report and gavel in a court.If a loved one has died as a result of another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, family members may bring a suit. They may claim damages for loss of support, training, and guidance as well as loss of love. They can recover damages for loss of assistive services and the loss to society.

Wrongful death suits can also receive damages for expenses related to the funeral and burial.

It’s important to realize that wrongful death suits in California do not allow survivors to claim damages based on their pain, suffering, or grief.

California also doesn’t provide for any award of punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Punitive damages refers to potential jury awards punishing the defendant for conduct or actions that should not have happened. But the jury cannot award this in a wrongful death suit according to California law.

No taxes are levied on wrongful death claims awarded.

A wrongful death suit may be brought by the next of kin under state law.

Survival Cause of Action Claims in California

Like wrongful death, a survival cause of action claim may be brought if a loved one died to the negligence or wrongdoing of another party, but did not die immediately.

Claims may be brought for medical care expenses and any lost wages the deceased person would have had a right to had they not died.

Importantly, survival cause of action claims can include punitive damages, as well as exemplary damages and other penalties.

Claims for survival action may not be brought for any burial and funeral expenses, or for pain, suffering, or disfigurement.

Survival action claims can be brought by the deceased person’s estate. Any awards from the claim are given according to the will or distributed by intestacy law if there is no will.

Any survival action claims are taxed by the U.S. government, for both Federal and estate tax.

In addition, any unpaid bills of the deceased are paid from the proceeds of a survival claim if they exist, before the heirs of the estate receive any compensation.

If You Need to Speak to a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Los Angeles

If you have lost a loved one in California due to the negligent actions of another, it may be prudent to speak to Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer Sean Salamati about the best course of action. Choosing between a wrongful death action and a survival action can be complex. If you want to punish the wrongdoer, for example, a survival action may be the best path to take. But you also need to think about the effect on your family if your loved one has significant bills or debts.

Attorney Sean Salamati has successfully recovered millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for his clients. Call today for a free consultation!

Additional Resources on Survival Actions vs. Wrongful Death Actions:

  1. California Legislative Information, CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE – CCP, ARTICLE 6. Wrongful Death [377.60 – 377.62]
  2. Justia, California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI), 3921. Wrongful Death (Death of an Adult),
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