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Differences Between Survival Action and Wrongful Death

September 20, 2021

If you have lost somebody you love as a result of the careless or negligent actions of another individual or company in California, there are various types of civil lawsuits that can be filed to help survivors recover compensation. Here, we want to discuss the difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action in this state. Even though these two are often lumped together as the same types of claims, the reality is they are different in California.


Understanding a Wrongful Death Claim in California

We can turn directly to the Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 to examine the law behind wrongful death civil lawsuits in California. We see that wrongful death claims allow family members or the estate of a person who lost their life to file a lawsuit if that person lost their life due to the wrongful actions of another individual, business, or entity.

One of the main differentiating factors between a wrongful death claim and a survival action is who is able to receive compensation as a result of a successful lawsuit. Wrongful death claims in California can only be filed by specific people, including the following:

  • Surviving spouses or domestic partners
  • Surviving children
  • Surviving grandchildren
  • Other minor children who were dependent on the deceased for at least 50% of their financial support
  • Any other person entitled to the deceased’s assets based on California intestate succession law

Individuals have a two-year window with which to file a lawsuit against the alleged negligent party, or they will likely lose the ability to recover the compensation they are entitled to. This compensation can include:

  • Any financial support the deceased would have provided throughout their life
  • Any gifts or benefits any heirs would have received from the deceased
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The reasonable value of household services that deceived would have provided
  • Coverage of the loss of the deceased’s affection, society, companionship, protection, moral support, and sexual relations

Understanding a Survival Action in California

If we look at California Code of Civil Procedure 377.30, we can see this law guides survival actions in California. Even though wrongful death claims and survival actions are often filed at the same time, it is important to point out that survival actions are filed on behalf of the estate of the deceased for any damages the deceased would have been able to recover if they had survived and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. A survival action lets the deceased’s estate recover compensation for losses sustained by the decedent as the result of the wrongful act before they died.

To simplify, these claims will provide compensation for the injuries the deceased sustained up until the time of their death, regardless of how short of a time frame there was between the injuries and them passing away. Some of the types of compensation that can be recovered through a survival action in California include:

  • Medical expenses incurred before death
  • Coverage of the deceased’s pain and suffering they experienced before death
  • Lost wages for the time between their injuries and death

The time frame for filing a survival action is a little bit different than the time frame for wrongful death claims. Survival actions have to be filed by the estate within two years from the later of the following:

  1. The date of the injury sustained by the deceased
  2. Six months after the death of the deceased

Speak to an Attorney Immediately

If you have lost somebody that you love as a result of the actions of another individual or entity in California, you need to work with a skilled attorney who has experience handling both wrongful death claims and survival actions. An attorney will walk you through every aspect of these claims and make sure that you and the deceased’s estate secure any compensation available.

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