What’s the Difference Between Survival Action & Wrongful Death?
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What’s the Difference Between Survival Action & Wrongful Death?

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Posted on October 11, 2022

When a loved one dies, it’s a heartbreaking and stressful time for the surviving family members. If the death comes after an injury caused by another party’s negligence, recklessness, or willful misconduct, it’s even more difficult for those left behind. Whether the loved one’s death resulted directly from the injury or they died from an unrelated cause in the months or years after an injury, the family members left behind may want to know what legal recourses they have available for compensation for their loss. It helps to understand the difference between survival action claims and claims for wrongful death, either of which may apply during the aftermath of a devastating personal injury. Survival action and wrongful death claims may seem similar on the surface since they’re both actionable after a death, but they are not the same and are not interchangeable.

What is a Survival Action Claim?

When a loved one suffers a personal injury as the result of another person’s carelessness, negligence, reckless behavior, or willful misconduct, Washington law considers that person at fault for any resulting injury to another person. A survival action claim centers around the pain, suffering, and anguish the accident victim suffered as a result of the injury before they died. Even if the person survived their injuries and went on to die from unrelated causes, they leave the option to file a claim against the at-fault party to their legal heirs. A surviving family member can file the claim the injured person could have filed had they lived.

In some cases, an injured person may have begun the claim and then died. In that case, the deceased’s legal heir may continue the lawsuit and gain the compensation that would have been the victim’s had they survived.

Survival action claims may include compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish

The surviving family members eligible for filing a survival action claim include the following persons:

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Child of the deceased over age 25 (biological or adopted)
  • Parents (biological or adopted)
  • Siblings of the deceased (biological or adopted)

An experienced Kent wrongful death attorney can help you determine if you or a family member can file a survival action claim on behalf of a deceased loved one.

When to File a Wrongful Death Claim

A wrongful death claim is one filed on behalf of a deceased family member in order to compensate the family left behind rather than to provide compensation for the expenses and pain and suffering of the deceased person themselves. A wrongful death claim typically follows immediately after the person’s death when the death was caused by another party’s act of negligence or recklessness. A wrongful death claim seeks compensation for the following:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Economic support and lost future earnings 
  • Mental anguish and grief
  • Loss of consortium (relationships with spouse, children, and other family members)

The damages awarded in a wrongful death claim are meant to compensate family members left behind for their grief at the loss as well as for the lost financial support of a family wage-earner.

Both types of claims must be filed within the state’s statute of limitations of 3 years.

The legalities of filing both types of claims can be complex in Washington. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you with the details of your claim.