The Difference Between Wrongful Death Claims and Survival Actions

September 4, 2014

This is the first in an ongoing series of posts explaining commonly confused legal concepts.  These explanations will provide a general overview of certain legal terms that you may have heard in the media or everyday conversations, but remember: when you or a loved one have been injured, it is important that you consult an experienced personal injury attorney for a thorough review of your potential claims. 


The Difference Between Wrongful Death Claims and Survival Actions

As Ohio personal injury lawyers, we are all too aware that tragedy can strike at any time.  Motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, defective products—the sad truth is that negligence in these and other instances often causes unnecessary deaths.  When a loved one dies as the result of a careless person or business’s negligence, Ohio law permits two types of civil claims against the negligent parties: wrongful death claims and survival actions.

Prior to consulting an attorney, many individuals confuse wrongful death claims and survival actions.  This is likely because both are claims that are brought by the victim’s estate following the victim’s death.  Despite this similarity, though, these two types of actions allow for compensation of different injuries.

In Ohio, a wrongful death claim is brought by the personal representative of the decedent (the deceased victim) for the purpose of compensating the decedent’s family.  In other words, the law recognizes that when a loved one is taken from his family due to another’s negligence, the family members suffer a compensable loss, including lost support and companionship.  A wrongful death judgment is distributed to family members according to the law rather than in accordance with a will because the judgment is specifically for the family members’ loss.

The decedent’s estate can also bring a survival action against the responsible defendant for the decedent’s injuries and losses.   As opposed to a wrongful death claim, survival actions focus on the victim’s injuries, pain, and expenses accrued between the time of the injury and death.  Effectively, this law means that the fact that the victim died of his injuries does not extinguish his right to sue.  Since a judgment in survival actions is technically compensation owed to the decedent for his injuries, proceeds from survival actions become part of the decedent’s estate and may be distributed according to a will (or otherwise under the law if no will exists).

If a loved one has died as the result of negligence, an experienced personal injury attorney can help.  Contact the Cleveland, Ohio wrongful death lawyers of Lowe Scott Fisher Co., LPA for a free telephone consultation.

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