What is a Survival Action Claim in California?

If you have lost a loved one due to the careless, negligent, or wrongful actions of another, California law provides two separate legal actions that can be brought by family members or the deceased’s estate to recover closure and compensation – a wrongful death claim and a survival action claim.

On the surface, these two claims look very similar. However, they are actually covered under separate sections of state law and result in different types of compensation being paid to the claimant. Here, we want to discuss the difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival action claim in California.

The Difference Between a California Wrongful Death and Survival Action

Both wrongful death (California Code of Civil Procedure §377.60) and survival actions (California Code of Civil Procedure §377.30) in this state are designed to help compensate various parties after a person loses their life due to the negligent or wrongful actions of another. These two claims may be governed by separate laws, but they are actually very similar, and people often mistake them as being one claim altogether.

  • Wrongful death claims in California generally seek to pay the beneficiaries of the deceased. This usually means surviving family members or the deceased person’s estate.
  • A survival action is targeted to repay family members for the types of compensation the deceased person would have recovered if they had survived the injury incident and been able to file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault party.

Another important difference to point out in these claims is that the wrongful death action will typically be brought directly by surviving family members, which can include a surviving spouse, children of the deceased, parents of the deceased, or another individual determined by California law to have been dependent on the deceased. Survival actions, on the other hand, will be brought forth by the executor of the deceased’s estate.

Another difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival action in California revolves around the damages that are awarded. In general, we will see the following types of compensation awarded in a wrongful death claim:

  • Loss of household services the deceased would have provided
  • Loss of care, guidance, affection, and nurturing provided by the deceased
  • Loss of financial support provided by the deceased
  • Loss of inheritance caused by the untimely death
  • Loss of consortium damages for a spouse or partner

In a survival action, these claims will provide compensation for the injuries sustained by the deceased for the time period between when the injury occurred up until the time of their death. This compensation can include:

  • All pre-death medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering injured by the deceased
  • Lost wages for the period between the injuries and their death

By the very nature of these two types of claims, we will see that survival actions will typically result in much larger compensation amounts if the time between when a person sustained an injury and when they passed away due to the injury is significant.

For example, if a person sustains a workplace injury and does almost immediately, it is unlikely that the survival action would result in much compensation. However, if the person who sustains a workplace injury lives for another month or two following the incident, this could result in significant compensation being paid through a survival action.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Survival Actions in California?

Wrongful death claims generally must be filed within two years from the date of the deceased person’s death. However, survival actions need to be filed within two years from the date of the injury or six months after the date of death, whichever period comes later.

It is crucial to work with a skilled wrongful death or survival action claim attorney in Orange County if you have lost somebody you love. An attorney will be able to walk you through this entire process and help ensure that your claim is filed on time.