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What is a Survival Action?

In Pennsylvania, if someone dies due to the negligence of another, there are two potential claims that can be brought under state law. One is a wrongful death claim and another is a survival action. Both are governed by the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act and are often brought together at the same time. There are, however, distinctive qualities and requirements for a wrongful death claim and a survival action. Here, we will focus on the ins and outs of a survival action.

What is a Survival Action?

It can be helpful to think of a survival action as the action the decedent could have brought had they survived the incident caused by someone else’s negligence. Essentially, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate steps into their shoes to bring the claim the decedent cannot bring themselves. So, a survival action is Pennsylvania law allowing the decedent’s estate to pursue the right to compensation the decedent would have been able to seek for what they suffered while they were still alive, prior to death. This is different than a wrongful death action which seeks to compensate certain survivors of the decedent that have suffered losses as a result of the decedent’s untimely death.

As the personal representative for the decedent’s estate steps into the shoes of the decedent in the survival action, they can pursue those damages the decedent suffered after the accident, but prior to death. This means that recoverable damages in a survival action may include:

  • Medical bills
  • Past wage loss
  • Future wage loss 
  • Pain and suffering

While the personal representative of the estate steps into the decedent’s shoes for the survival action, the question then becomes, where does the money recovered in a survival action go? It clearly cannot go to the decedent. Instead, the money goes to the probate estate of the decedent. In the absence of a will, the money would be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. Intestacy laws come into play when a person dies without a valid will in place. If there is a valid will in place at the time of the decedent’s death, the proceeds recovered from the survival action would be distributed to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will. It should be noted, however, that proceeds from the survival action go into the probate estate and can be used to satisfy outstanding creditor claims made against the estate. So, in certain cases, beneficiaries may not actually see any of this money. They may, however, still receive compensation through a wrongful death action.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

Losing a loved one unexpectedly can be devastating. During this difficult time, you can lean on the dedicated team at Cooper, Schall & Levy. We will tirelessly pursue your legal rights to receive monetary compensation for this monumental loss. Do not hesitate to reach out to our office.  Contact us today.