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Are Wrongful Death and Survival Action Claims the Same?

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The late singer-songwriter, Prince, died in baffling circumstances in his estate a few years ago. His staff found him on the floor near an elevator, still warm but lifeless. His official cause of death was opioid overdose. Prince’s family filed a case against the artist’s hospital and doctor, claiming that the medical professionals failed to diagnose and treat the victim’s complications, which led to his fatal overdose.

Their case is an example of a wrongful death lawsuit, which you and many people are probably familiar with. There’s another less-known lawsuit that’s similar. It’s called “survival action.” This blog will establish the difference between the two.

A Primer on Wrongful Death

When an unexpected death happens due to the negligence or intent of another person, it may leave the surviving family of the deceased financially vulnerable. The family often has to pay for the wake and funeral costs, and if the deceased was the sole breadwinner, the surviving spouse or partner is left to support their child or other dependents.

Survivors of the deceased can file for a wrongful death claim to get compensation if they suspect that their loved one died from a medical malpractice, car accident, or intentional homicide.

In some instances, the victim’s family may file a wrongful death claim for cases that also qualify for murder or homicide. The wrongful death claim filed by the family of Ronald L. Goldman against former football player and actor O.J. Simpson is a notable example. Goldman was stabbed to death, together with Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, in her Los Angeles home.

The Goldman family filed a civil case, which sought for damages. They won, and the accused was ordered to pay over $33.5 million. Meanwhile, the State of California filed a criminal case, the infamous murder lawsuit of which Simpson was acquitted. The state lost this suit, but had Simpson been found guilty of murder, this case would have resulted in his arrest.

Wrongful Death and Survival Action

The primary difference between these two is the type of damages sought. A wrongful death claim focuses on the compensation given to the deceased’s family and beneficiaries for their loss and the financial problems they incurred due to their loved one’s demise.

A survival action claim focuses on the damages associated with the deceased’s income and estate based on what they could have acquired had they lived. This includes lost earnings, as well as compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased had to go through after injury until the death.

Who Can Make the Claim?

The State of California allows the following to file a wrongful death claim:

  • The deceased person’s spouse and children
  • People who were dependent on the deceased for money, such as their parents or even stepchildren
  • People entitled to the deceased’s property according to a will or court decision

Meanwhile, the representative of the deceased’s estate (such as the spouse or children) may file the survival action suit.

Be mindful of the differences between these two suits. When in doubt, ask your lawyer for advice. Make sure you’re getting the right information before filing your claim, to get the just compensation you and your loved ones deserve.

Have a Capable Lawyer on Your Side

The family of wrongful death victims ought to have an experienced wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles on their side to get fair compensation. Our trial attorneys at Haffner Law will help you understand your options and make the right decision. Our practice areas include personal injury, business litigation, bad faith insurance, and class action lawsuits.

Call us now to speak with one of our attorneys.

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