What is the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Survival Action?

Posted on July 3, 2023

The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one always feels wrong and traumatic for those left behind, but when the death was entirely preventable if only someone else had taken reasonable care, it’s even more tragic. An unexpected loss can leave family members dealing with financial hardships on top of their emotional anguish.

As stated from our Salt Lake City personal injury lawyer, when the death resulted from the negligence of another party, they may also feel the need for closure and a sense of justice. Fortunately, civil courts in Utah offer grieving loved ones options for achieving justice and compensation for an untimely loss.

If your family member died after suffering injuries caused by the negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing of another, you might be wondering if you should file a wrongful death claim or a survival action—or is it possible to do both?

What is a Survival Action?

A survival action takes the place of a personal injury claim that the deceased person could have filed themself if they hadn’t died from their injuries. A successful survival action claim compensates the deceased’s estate for:

  • Medical costs incurred before their death
  • Lost income from the time of their injury until they would have ceased working
  • The pain and suffering the deceased person experienced before their death. 

Any settlement or court award for a survival action is distributed to the deceased person’s estate. In essence, this is meant as direct compensation to the deceased person who suffered pain and financial loss before their death.

Typically, the administrator or personal representative of the person’s estate brings forward a survival action claim. Because the compensation for damages goes to the person’s estate, it’s distributed to the heirs and subject to inheritance tax.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim in Utah?

When a family member dies unexpectedly, it not only causes grief to loved ones but can also cause financial struggles if the deceased person was an income-earning member of the family. While a survival action is filed on behalf of the deceased person to provide compensation for their damages, a wrongful death claim is brought by close family members of the deceased to compensate them for their damages. Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit may include:

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Lost income for the remaining number of working years the deceased family member had left until retirement
  • Lost medical insurance benefits
  • Pension or lost retirement contributions
  • Grief and anguish
  • Loss of companionship, loss of consortium, or the loss of the emotional support of a parent

Any settlement amount or jury award for a wrongful death claim goes to the close family member who filed the claim, usually an heir such as a spouse or adult child who suffers economically from the death. In some cases, a family representative may make the claim on behalf of the close family members.

Do I Have to Choose Between Filing a Survival Action or a Wrongful Death Claim in Utah?

Utah allows surviving family members to file both a survival action and a wrongful death claim when they’ve lost a loved one due to negligence. Often the family’s attorney files both claims in conjunction with one another.

If you need help with deciding whether to file a survival action or a wrongful death claim, it might be best to consult with the Salt Lake City wrongful death lawyers at Handy & Handy Attorneys at Law today. Contact us or call (801)-264-6677 today.