When someone dies in California due to another party’s negligence, the surviving family members of the deceased generally have two avenues they can use to seek compensation. A wrongful death claim enables family members to seek compensation for the financial and psychological costs of their loss. At the same time, a survival action allows a personal representative of the deceased’s estate to claim damages for the economic and psychological losses that the deceased would have been able to claim if they had survived their injuries. 

Understanding survival action vs. a wrongful death action is an important part of determining the amount of compensation a family can receive after they’ve lost a loved one. An experienced attorney from Setareh Law can explain these two legal actions in greater detail and tell you more about the services our legal team can provide to help your family recover the maximum amount of compensation available.

Wrongful Death Claims in California

Many accidental deaths can lead to a wrongful death claim in California. While some states require a wrongful death claim to be filed by a personal representative of the deceased’s estate, family members in California — such as the surviving spouse, parents, children, and other dependents who relied on the decedent for at least 50% of their financial support — can also file a claim.

The type of compensation that can be sought through a wrongful death claim includes:

  • Expenses related to a funeral service and burial or cremation
  • Loss of financial support and household services
  • Loss of parental guidance and training
  • Loss of comfort, companionship, assistance, and affection

Wrongful death claims are filed against a relevant liability insurance policy held by the at-fault party. If the insurer who services that policy fails to pay the claim, it can be filed as a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the date of death.

When a Survival Action Can Be Filed

While a wrongful death claim is intended to compensate the family for its losses after a loved one has died, a survival action is meant to compensate the estate for losses that were suffered by the decedent before death. Survival actions must be brought by a personal representative of the deceased’s estate. If the deceased did not have a will that named an executor, a person known as a successor-in-interest who stands to inherit from the estate can file the action.

Some examples of the types of losses that can be compensated through a survival action include:

  • Medical bills related to the treatment of the decedent’s final injuries
  • Lost wages from the time of injury until the time of death
  • Personal property damage sustained in the accident, such as damage to the decedent’s vehicle due to a car accident
  • The deceased’s pain and suffering before death

In some cases, a survival action claimant will also be awarded punitive damages, which involve compensation awarded to the claimant as a way to punish a defendant for extreme recklessness. Punitive damages are not available in wrongful death claims but can be sought through a survival action. 

Other Differences Between Survival Actions and Wrongful Death Actions

Another difference between wrongful death actions and survival actions is whether the death of the decedent was immediate. For an executor or successor-in-interest to file a survival action in California, the decedent must have survived at least a short period following the accident. However, even if the death was immediate, the family members will likely be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. 

If the decedent did survive for a long enough time to file a personal injury claim and their death occurred before that claim was compensated, the damages sought through the personal injury claim can be included in the survival action. While punitive damages are available through survival actions, in order for a claimant to receive them, it must be proven that the decedent incurred some type of economic loss before death. 

Contact Setareh Law For Help Today

Losing a loved one of the most financially and emotionally devastating experiences a family can experience, especially if that loss was the result of someone else’s negligence. The legal team at Setareh Law knows all too well the difficulties that family members can encounter as they attempt to move forward after an unexpected death. We have been fighting for our clients for many years, and we pride ourselves on the ability to be there for them in their time of need.

Let us help you understand the processes involved in seeking compensation through a wrongful death or survival action. We can answer any questions you have about your case. For your free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (310) 659-1826. Our team also speaks Spanish.