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Wrongful Death Claims vs. Survival Actions

Discover the Available Legal Remedies After Deadly Accidents in Texas

Wrongful death cases and survival actions both offer a path to justice when negligence causes fatal injuries. There are, however, some key differences between these two types of tort claims, including who can file them and the damages they may yield.

Knowing those distinctions can help you understand whether or when you’re eligible to pursue a wrongful death case and/or a survival action in Texas. So can a wrongful death lawyer when you need case-specific answers in a confidential environment.

How Wrongful Death Cases Differ from Survival Actions in Texas

To get a better understanding of wrongful death claims vs. survival actions in Texas, see the table below. This highlights who can file each type of claim in Texas, as well as the nature of compensation available and who receives that money if either claim is successful.

Claim TypeWho Can FileAvailable DamagesWho Gets Paid
Wrongful Death CaseSpouse, children & parents of the decedentEconomic & non-economic losses suffered by the spouse, children and/or parentsSpouse, children & parents of the decedent
Survival ActionEstate of the decedent or the executor/personal representative of the decedent’s estateEconomic & non-economic losses suffered by the decedentThe decedent’s estate

Here, it’s crucial to mention that:

  • Some loved ones will be eligible to pursue both a wrongful death case and a survival action. For example, a surviving spouse who is also the executor of her deceased husband’s estate may be able to file both a wrongful death claim and a survival action.
  • The estate or the executor will NOT be able to pursue a survival action if the surviving  spouse, children, or parents submit a formal request barring this action.
  • A survival action can be filed before death has occurred. In fact, while wrongful death cases can only be filed after a loved one has died, survival actions can be filed while a catastrophically injured loved one is still alive and fighting for their life.

Wrongful Death Cases vs. Survival Actions in Texas: Statutes of Limitations

Wrongful death cases and survival actions don’t have the same filing deadlines or statutes of limitations in Texas. Specifically:

  • Wrongful death claims must be filed within 2 years of the date of death: That date of death could be the same date as a fatal event, or it could be months after the incident that caused the fatal injuries. Keep in mind that there are exceptions to this 2-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in Texas, depending on the defendant, the plaintiff, the nature of the negligence involved, and other factors.
  • Survival actions have a 2-year statute of limitations that’s “tolled” for up to 1 year: “Tolled” means that the statute of limitations is paused for that timeframe. For survival actions, the pause is generally implemented so that the estate can be set up and a personal representative (or executor) can be appointed by the court. If there’s a personal representative in place before that 1-year is up, the statute of limitations for survival actions in Texas will usually kick in as of the date that personal representative has been put in place.

Despite the differences in the statutes of limitations for Texas wrongful death cases versus survival actions, one thing both claims have in common is the fact that it’s generally better to take action and initiate a case sooner, instead of running down the clock and filing right before those statutes of limitations are up.

That’s because evidence can get more difficult (or impossible) to obtain as more time passes after the death — and if the at-fault parties are expecting a claim, they can have more time to build a defense, gain an upper hand, and make it more challenging to recover when a wrongful death case or a survival action is finally filed.

Wrongful Death Cases vs. Survival Actions in Texas: Compensation

Another important difference in wrongful death cases versus survival actions in Texas is the fact that in:

  • Wrongful death cases, compensation is meant to repay spouses, children, and/or parents for the losses and suffering they have personally suffered as a result of losing their loved one.
  • Survival actions, compensation is focused on the decedent’s losses. In fact, survival actions have earned their name from the fact that a victim’s personal injury claim “survives” his or her death.  

Consequently, wrongful death lawsuits that are successfully resolved for plaintiffs can result in damages for (but not limited to):

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical expenses (up to the date of death)
  • Lost household income and benefits
  • Lost future earnings
  • Loss of love and companionship
  • Lost inheritance
  • Mental anguish

On the other hand, successful survival actions can yield damages for (but not limited to):

  • Medical bills
  • Lost earnings
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering

Wrongful Death Cases vs. Survival Actions in Texas: Attorneys

Differences aside, wrongful death cases and survival actions can both benefit from the oversight, support, and representation of an experienced wrongful death lawyer. In fact, an experienced wrongful death attorney will typically know how to efficiently investigate, build, and present strong claims, giving the plaintiffs better chances of:

  • Setting their case up for successful resolution
  • Achieving efficient, favorable resolutions
  • Securing full, fair compensation and the justice they deserve

Additionally, lawyers who routinely handle wrongful death cases and survival actions work on contingency, meaning you pay zero legal fees or expenses until or unless there’s a recovery in your case. If there is no recovery, there are no expenses or fees owed.  That can make it much easier to assert your rights and seek justice after the loss of a loved one.