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What is the Difference Between a Survival Statute and a Wrongful Death Statute?

After you lose a loved one to the mistakes or negligence of a third-party, you could have the option to pursue compensation using a wrongful death claim. During the course of your case, though, you might hear the terms “wrongful death statute” and “survival statute” come up. Depending on who you hired to help with your claim, assuming you spoke with an attorney at all, you might not get an explanation of what a wrongful death statute and a survival statute even mean.

The quick explanation is that a wrongful death statute seeks damages to be paid to the deceased’s estate for its beneficiaries, but a survival statute seeks damages to be paid to the deceased’s estate for the deceased as if they were alive. This concept seems strange at a cursory glance, so it is worth it to take a closer look.

What Does a Wrongful Death Action Pay?

The average wrongful death claim, action, or statute allows for damages to be paid to the deceased’s beneficiaries, whether they are named in an estate plan or determined through a state’s estate planning laws. In most states, beneficiaries are spouses and children, but some may allow for other family members like parents, siblings, and grandparents.

Damages that can be paid through a wrongful death action include:

  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of guidance and parenthood
  • Value of services the deceased provided the household
  • Pain and suffering experienced by the beneficiaries
  • Cost of funeral and burial expenses

Every state has its own set of rules for wrongful death statute, though. The damages available to you could vary slightly or significantly from those outlined here. However, the underlying concept of a wrongful death action is that it seeks damages that benefit the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate.

What Does a Survival Action Pay?

Just like with wrongful death actions, survival actions, claims, or statutes will vary from state to state. The thread among all types of survival actions is that it seeks damages to be paid to the deceased’s estate as if they had not passed away and were instead filing a personal injury claim for themselves.

Damages that can be paid through a survival action include:

  • Income the deceased would have likely earned in life
  • Cost of final medical or palliative care
  • Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased due to their injuries

Similarities Between Survival & Wrongful Death Statutes

The main similarity between a survival statute and a wrongful death statute is that the damages that can be awarded are often capped. States often put recovery caps on all damages in wrongful death claims, regardless of why they are being paid to the estate. Another similarity, as touched upon before, is that the laws regarding both types of statutes depend on a state’s laws, not federal law. You will need to know more about your state’s approach to wrongful death claims to get a full understanding of what damages could become available to you and your family after losing a loved one in a tragic accident or the unthinkable negligence of a third party.

Ball, Kirk & Holm, P.C. offers compassionate and experienced legal assistance to people in Waterloo, Iowa City, and elsewhere in Iowa. If you have questions and concerns about survival statutes and wrongful death statutes, then please know that we have answers. We take pride in our ability to approach wrongful death claims with sensitivity and professionalism that never leave our clients feeling rushed or overlooked. Contact our attorneys now for more information and a free consultation.