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The difference between wrongful death and survival actions

You may have heard about wrongful death claims before -- but what about survival actions?

Both are types of lawsuits that are filed after someone has died, and both help cover the myriad medical bills and other financial needs that tend to pile up in the wake of a tragedy. However, there are important distinctions between the two that you should understand.

How do wrongful death claims work?

A wrongful death claim is more familiar to most people -- and it centers around the immediate survivors of the victim of negligence.

For example, in a delayed or missed diagnosis case, the spouse and children of a cancer victim might file a wrongful death claim after their loved one died. The claim would ask the court to compensate them for the loss of their loved one -- both in a financial sense, because of the income or services he or she would no longer be able to provide the family, and in an emotional sense, because of the pain and emotional suffering the family had to endure over the loss.

If successful, claims are paid directly to the survivors who are eligible to bring the claim. Who exactly can file a wrongful death claim is limited strictly by law.

How do survival actions work?

A survival action is filed by the estate of the deceased. It seeks the compensation the deceased would have been due, had he or she survived, for any losses and suffering he or she endured while still alive. A survival action could cover a relatively long period of time while a victim of negligence languished in a hospital bed or only a short time while he or she lingered after an accident.

Since the claim is filed by the victim's estate, the eventual beneficiaries are the people named in the deceased's will. If there's no will, the beneficiaries of any award will be the those named according to estate law.

Because of the differences between survival actions and wrongful death claims are so important, make sure that you discuss both if you're considering any claim regarding a deceased love one.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed Feb. 14, 2018

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