When residents of Manhattan lose a loved one due to the negligence of another, most would likely assume that there only course of action to recover any sort of financial compensation for that loss would be to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there is indeed another method through which one can sue for damages due to wrongful death: aa survivorship action. Both methods offer the opportunity to assign accountability to a negligent party over one’s death, and according to the St. John’s Law Review, both methods can be combined in a single case.
The main difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and a survivorship action is the intended beneficiaries of such actions. Section 5-4.1 of New York’s Estate, Powers and Trust Law is very clear in stating that any award arising from a wrongful death action is meant to benefit only one’s distributees (or beneficiaries). The benefit of a survivorship action is meant to be the victim of whatever incident prompted the action (or, more appropriately, his or her estate).
An easier way to understand this difference may be to compare a survivorship action to a standard personal injury claim. In such a claim, a plaintiff has a cause of action against a defendant. It is the same in a survivorship action, only the law recognizes that cause of action survives one’s death. Thus, the representatives of a plaintiff can bring a lawsuit based on that cause of action in his or her stead. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate brings action on behalf of his or her surviving loved ones.
Damages for a survivorship action would b awarded to a decedent’s estate. Conversely, those damages in a wrongful death lawsuit would go to designated distributees.