Survival Action in Pennsylvania: What to Do When Someone Dies During a Personal Injury Claim

Pennsylvania law provides that “[a]ll causes of action or proceedings…shall survive the death of the plaintiff…or the death of one or more joint plaintiffs,” meaning that the claim can continue even if the plaintiff dies. A survival action in Pennsylvania pursues any damages that the claimant would have otherwise recovered had the individual lived, and recovers those damages for the estate.

For example, a driver was seriously injured in a head-on collision when a drunk driver in another vehicle ran a red light. He begins the process of filing a lawsuit against the negligent party. He is attempting to recover property damage costs, lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering, but before his case settles, the victim dies. The victim’s estate can pursue those damages in a survival action.

How do I pursue a survival action after the death of my loved one?

The attorneys at Saile & Saile LLP will work with you and your family to handle any legal actions stemming from your loved one’s death. It is the estate that sues under a survival action. An administrator of the deceased’s estate (whom may or may not be a relative) can bring forth a survival action claim to recover losses for the estate. This may be the same personal representative who brings a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased’s surviving family.

Who gets the compensation recovered in a survival action?

The estate technically recovers the damages awarded in a survival action. And then the damages are distributed to survivors based on the deceased’s will.

If the deceased did not have a will at the time of his death, then the estate – and the survival action damages – is distributed per Pennsylvania’s intestate laws. The distribution depends on whether the deceased had a surviving spouse, children, parents, or other relatives.

  • Spouse, no children or parents: The spouse receives all assets
  • Children, no spouse: The children receive all assets
  • Spouse and children from current spouse: The spouse receives first $30,000 of property and half the balance. The children receive the rest.
  • Spouse and children from another person other than current spouse: The spouse receives half of property; the children receive the rest.
  • Spouse and parents: The spouse receives first $30,000 of property and half of the rest. The parents receive the rest.

Talk to an attorney at Saile & Saile LLP about other scenarios if yours differs from those listed above.

How is a survival action different than a wrongful death case?

While similar in that both pursue compensation from a party ultimately responsible for the deceased’s death, there are some key differences.

The first is that the wrongful death action seeks compensation for the benefit of the beneficiaries, not the estate. This includes a spouse, children, and/or parents. While these individuals may ultimately recover compensation from the estate, a wrongful death case recovers benefits directly for these beneficiaries.

Wrongful death damages will also differ from survival action damages. A wrongful death action also seeks compensation for the beneficiaries’ damages, not necessarily those of the deceased. An action under the wrongful death survival statute, though, is a continuation of a personal injury case, so it will seek compensation for the deceased’s damages.

Get Help Filing a Survival Action in Bucks County – Contact Saile & Saile

A survival action in Pennsylvania may recover various types of damages. The compensation recoverable in the accident depends on a number of factors, such as the effects of the accident and injuries on the deceased prior to death, as well as available insurance policies that cover the accident.

Saile & Saile LLP will work with you to identify all avenues of compensation and the damages that are recoverable in the claim. Do not delay in seeking help. Saile & Saile LLP helps families in Bucks County pursue compensation for personal injury and wrongful death. Set up a consultation today by calling us at 215-486-8196.


Michael L. Saile, Jr.
Car Accident Attorney in Bucks County Pennsylvania