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Survival Actions in Pennsylvania

The Survival Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8302, provides that all causes of action or proceedings, real or personal, shall survive the death of the plaintiff or of the defendant, or the death of one or more joint plaintiffs or defendants.  A survival action refers to a personal injury claim, brought by the decedent’s estate, which would have been brought by the decedent had he or she lived. For example, the decedent’s estate may seek to recover for pain and suffering experienced by the decedent prior to his or her death. In contrast to a wrongful death action, a survival action is not a new cause of action occasioned by the death of the decedent; rather, it is a cause of action accruing to the plaintiff that survives his or her death.  Sunderland v. R.A. Barlow Homebuilders, 2002 PA Super 16, 791 A.2d 384 (2002).

Damages awarded in a survival action are based upon the pecuniary loss that the decedent, and not his or her dependents, suffered. Thus, in survival cases, the action enforces the liability of the tortfeasor to the decedent’s estate, not to his or her relatives or dependents. Damages recovered in a survival action for personal injuries to a decedent are subject to liability for debts because the survival action is a chose belonging to the decedent and passing to decedent’s personal representative with the other assets for administration. In re Lucabaugh’s Estate, 74 Pa. D. & C. 68, 1951 WL 3452 (Orphans’ Ct. 1951).

For more information related to filing a survival action, please contact an attorney at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, with offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and attorneys licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call 215-574-0600.