What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Action and a Survival Action?


In Pennsylvania, the law recognizes two different types of lawsuits when a person dies through either negligent or intentional circumstances. These actions are known as wrongful death and survival actions. There are several differences between the two actions, and it is important that families in need of legal advice understand the significance of these differences.

Wrongful Death Actions

When a person is killed due to the negligent or reckless actions of another, such as a motor vehicle accident, the use of defective products, or workplace accidents, a wrongful death is said to have occurred.

Under Pennsylvania law, certain classes of persons may bring suit to recover losses that they suffered as a result of a decedent’s wrongful death. A Pennsylvania wrongful death lawsuit can name the parents, children, or spouse of the deceased as beneficiaries who are able to recover.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, recovery is limited to what the deceased would have recovered had he or she lived. Recoverable damages include the loss of support (income) as a result of the decedent’s death, as well as the loss of companionship, society, and affection experienced by the surviving family members. These damages are meant to compensate the survivors of the deceased and, therefore, it is important to note that a wrongful death lawsuit does not include damages for pain and suffering for the deceased.

Survival Actions

While wrongful death law deals with the loss of a loved one from the family’s perspective, survival actions take a different approach. Pennsylvania survival statutes enable the personal representative of a decedent’s estate to pursue any claims the decedent herself would have had at the time of her death, including claims for damages resulting from both personal injury and property damage. Such claims often involve damages resulting from the negligent or intentional act that injured the decedent and later resulted in his or her death.

For example, if the decedent was negligently injured by the driver of another automobile and remained out of work, in the hospital, and in extreme pain for a year before passing away, his estate would be able to recover for his medical expenses from the time of his injury to his death, his loss of income during this time, and for the pain and suffering he experienced.

Unlike wrongful death damages, damages in a survival action belong to the decedent’s estate and, therefore, only the personal representative of the estate can bring the suit.

Contact a Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Attorney

The Pennsylvania wrongful death attorneys at Solnick & Associates, LLC help survivors of persons killed in auto accidents, industrial accidents, or from the use of defective products recover wrongful death benefits. Although nothing can ever replace the loss of a loved one, the law allows family members to seek monetary compensation that can help alleviate some of the financial challenges that stem from the loss. If you or someone you know has been killed as a result of the negligent or reckless actions of another, it is important that you speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney. Contact Solnick & Associates today.

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