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Wrongful Death Claims vs. Survival Claims: What’s the Difference?

March 11, 2019

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Losing a loved one is never easy. However, when another person’s negligence caused the death, it ‘s often even more difficult to come to terms with it. Pennsylvania law recognizes that loved ones left behind after a wrongful death are entitled to compensation. This compensation can cover the costs related to the death such as funeral expenses and loss of income.

In Pennsylvania, loved ones can file two separate claims for compensation. One is a wrongful death claim, while the other is a survival claim. Both of these claims are related to the wrongful death, but they seek different types of compensation.

A Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania

Wrongful death is outlined in Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes, Title 42, Chapter 83. This statute defines wrongful death as a death caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of another person. In Pennsylvania, family members of the deceased file this type of claim to compensate for injuries they sustained due to the death.

Compensation awarded in a wrongful death claim can include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of contributions received by the deceased such as gifts, entertainment, and education
  • Financial value of family support, comfort, and services
  • Loss of services to children such as guidance and moral support

Pennsylvania Survival Claim

Unlike in other states, wrongful death claims are not considered personal injury claims the deceased could have filed if they survived the accident. Instead, Pennsylvania law allow s family members to file a survival claim for this type of compensation.

A survival claim operates like a personal injury claim, with the exception that a personal representative of the deceased’s estate is filing on their behalf. Unlike wrongful death claims, survival claims compensate for injuries the deceased incurred before their death. The type of compensation awarded includes pain and suffering and loss of earning power.

Which Claim to File

Families often wonder, after hearing of the two different types of claims, which one they should file. While a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia can advise families on which claim is appropriate , it will depend on the circumstances surrounding the death.

For example, a patient is admitted to the hospital for routine day surgery. During surgery, the patient contracts a terrible infection due to negligence in the operating room. She remains in the hospital for weeks before complications from the infection cause her to pass away.

In this instance, the family can file a wrongful death claim because someone in the operating room was negligent. However, they can also file a survival claim. The patient suffered greatly before she passed away. If she had survived the infection, she would have had a legitimate personal injury claim. Therefore, her family would have a valid survival claim.

If a person got hit by a car and died immediately though, that changes the circumstances surrounding the death. It may still be possible to file a survival claim, but family members will be awarded different types of compensation. They may not receive as much in pain and suffering because the deceased did not experience great pain and suffering before their death . However, loved ones can still claim loss of income, as it’s likely the deceased would have been rendered unable to work if they had survived.

Contact a Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Attorney as Soon as Possible

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is often a very complicated process. Opening an estate, investigating the claim, and seeking a fair resolution is even more difficult for those still grieving. Loved ones don’t have to go through it alone, though. A wrongful death lawyer in Pennsylvania can help.

If you’ve lost a loved one and you feel someone else is to blame, contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim at (215) 486-0123. Losing a family member suddenly and unexpectedly is one of the most difficult things for loved ones to go through. While compensation cannot bring your loved one back, it can provide compensation to help ease the financial burden. We want to help you get it.

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