Difference Between Wrongful Death and Survival Actions

court document reading wrongful death on table with gavel

If your family member died because of someone else’s wrongful act, you have the right to demand answers and seek justice for their untimely death. 

While wrongful death and survival actions are often linked, they are considered distinct legal concepts and claims under Colorado law. If your family has lost a loved one because of someone else’s carelessness, it is essential to understand how your rights differ under both of these actions.

Definition of a Wrongful Death Action in Colorado

A wrongful death action is a claim that allows the surviving family members of a deceased person to recover compensation for their losses if their loved one passed away due to another party’s fault. These losses may include emotional and financial losses attributed to a family member’s passing.

Definition of a Colorado Survival Action

Colorado survival actions are governed by C.R.S. 13-20-101. The law states that any legal claim (except for defamation claims) survives the claimant’s death and may be filed or continued notwithstanding their death. Survival actions claiming personal injury allow for the recovery of compensation for loss of earnings or income sustained before death in addition to pre-death expenses such as medical bills to treat a decedent’s fatal injury or illness. 

Differences Between a Survival Action and a Wrongful Death Claim

Survival actions and wrongful death actions have several significant differences:

  • Different parties file survival and wrongful death actions. Survival actions must be filed by a decedent’s personal representative, usually the executor or administrator of their estate. Conversely, a wrongful death action is filed by close surviving family members of a decedent, such as a spouse, children or other descendants, or parents. 
  • Survival and wrongful death actions cover distinct losses. Survival actions allow for the recovery of financial expenses and losses incurred by the decedent prior to death, such as lost income or medical expenses. Survival actions also allow for the recovery of funeral and burial expenses. Damages in a survival action are specifically for the decedent.

On the other hand, wrongful death actions permit surviving family members to obtain compensation for the loss of their loved one’s affection, companionship, and guidance, along with the financial losses from the decedent being unable to provide financial support or contribute to the maintenance of the household. Wrongful death damages are geared toward the decedent’s surviving loved ones.

Can Both a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action Follow a Fatal Accident in Colorado?

Both survival and wrongful death actions can be filed after a fatal accident in Colorado, particularly when a decedent does not immediately lose their life in the accident. When a decedent suffers injuries in an accident that ultimately prove fatal, they may incur financial losses from medical treatments and lost income that a survival action can recover. The decedent’s family can also obtain compensation for their losses in a wrongful death claim.

Call the Experienced Wrongful Death and Survival Action Attorneys at Olson Law Firm, LLC

If you have more questions about wrongful death and survival actions, contact Olson Law Firm, LLC, for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our Colorado wrongful death and survival action attorneys can review your legal options and discuss how we can help you seek accountability for your loved one’s death.

Author: Sean Olson

Sean Olson is much more than just a personal injury lawyer. Sean is an advocate who helps those who are injured navigate our complex legal system. And he is a voice for those who are injured and cannot speak for themselves.