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Key Differences between a Wrongful Death Civil Suit and a Survival Action

This content about Wrongful Death Civil Suit was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.

Key Differences between a Wrongful Death Civil Suit and a Survival Action

When someone tragically dies due to negligent or reckless actions or an intentional wrongful act, there are usually two lawsuits that are brought against the responsible party. One of them is known as a wrongful death civil suit, and the other is a survival cause of action, also called a survival action. It’s important to understand the similarities and differences between the two to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve after the death of a loved one.

What is a Wrongful Death Civil Suit?

A wrongful death civil suit allows the surviving family members of a decedent to receive compensation for a variety of losses, either economic or non-economic, such as funeral and burial expenses or loss of affection and guidance. The Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 governs a California wrongful death civil suit. This statute is particular as to who can file this civil suit and the damages that are available to the surviving family or the decedent’s estate.

What is a Survival Cause of Action?

A survival action is authorized by the California Code of Civil Procedure 377.30. This action receives its name from the fact that it allows you to sue for damages that “survive” the decedent’s death. What this means is that if the decedent survived long enough to suffer economic damages, a survival action might be brought against the wrongdoer by a personal representative of the decedent’s estate. Recoverable damages may include but are not limited to lost wages, medical bills, and damage to personal property during the wrongful act.

Key Differences

    • Who can file: A wrongful death civil suit can be filed by the decedent’s close family members or a representative of the decedent’s estate. In contrast, survival actions can only be filed by the representative of the decedent’s estate. If there is no representative, the action can be filed by a successor in interest.
    • Available damages: Wrongful death suits can recover both economic and non-economic losses, but no punitive damages are available. On the other hand, survival causes of action can recover punitive damages and monetary losses, but they cannot recover non-economic losses.
  • Statute of limitations: A wrongful death civil suit must be filed within two years of death, while survival actions are to be brought by the later of 6 months after the decedent’s death or two years from the date of the wrongful act. 

Another vital thing to keep in mind is that survival actions may not be appropriate when death occurs instantly. Still, if there is even a minor delay before death, there is a possibility that there was some sort of economic damage. Whether a death occurred instantly or not, this does not affect the family members’ right to pursue a wrongful death civil suit. In many instances, these actions are brought together if they are the result of the same wrongful act, allowing the plaintiff(s) to recover different damages.

Seek help to pursue these actions

If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one under the circumstances mentioned above, don’t hesitate to speak to a lawyer who can help you decide the best course of action. An attorney can assess your case and let you know what damages you can recover. He or she can tell you which action is more appropriate or if you can file both, ensuring you receive all the compensation that the liable party owes you.

Haddad & Sherwin LLP has a long, successful track record winning wrongful death and other serious civil rights claims for police and jail officer misconduct, throughout Northern and Central California.  Call or email us for a free consultation.

This content was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.