What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Suit and a Survival Action?

Published on January 13, 2020, by Matthew Sharp

Personal Injury

What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Suit and a Survival Action?

Negligent actions that result in the death of another person are grounds for legal actions. Wrongful death lawsuits focus on the family of the deceased, while survival actions focus on the decedent’s suffering.

Recovering Damages for Fatal Injuries

Wrongful death lawsuits and survival actions provide two options for legal recourse when negligent actions cause someone to die. Both options offer different ways to recover damages from the party who is liable for the victim’s suffering and death.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

A wrongful death lawsuit centers around the family of the deceased person and allows family members to file a civil lawsuit for damages. These damages focus on the grief and suffering of the decedent’s family as a result of their loved one’s death. Typical damages awarded by the court include funeral expenses, loss of consortium, and current and future income lost due to the loved one’s death. In a wrongful death lawsuit, plaintiffs may include the decedent’s spouse or children, the parents of an unmarried decedent, or other legally recognized dependents.

Survival Actions

A survival action centers around the suffering of the deceased person, rather than the suffering and financial losses of the family. In survival actions, the decedent’s estate can recover damages related to pain and suffering of the victim, as well as the decedent’s medical bills and lost earnings. Awarded damages are similar to awarded damages in personal injury lawsuits. A survival action is usually brought forth by the executor of the decedent’s estate, and all awarded damages are paid to the decedent’s estate instead of directly to surviving family members. 

Filing Legal Actions

When filing a wrongful death lawsuit or survival action, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s guilt and liability for fatal injuries. Legally, proof must show that death was caused by negligence, careless behaviors, or reckless actions of someone who had a legal obligation, “duty of care,” to the person who died. 

In Nevada, wrongful death lawsuits and survival actions are different causes of action, but they can be combined in the same lawsuit through a Nevada accident lawyer who handles injury cases. When accident victims die, wrongful death lawsuits and survival actions must be filed within two years. However, if the injury victim dies less than one year before the time limit expires, the estate executor has one full year from the date of the victim’s death to file a survival action.