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Distinguishing Between Wrongful Death vs. Survival Action in Oklahoma


Losing a loved one in an accident that you later discover was the result of someone else’s negligence, or was caused by an act of violence, can be devastating for those left behind. If the surviving family members were dependent on the deceased for financial support, not only did they lose the affection and companionship of that person, but they also lost an important source of financial stability moving forward.

After the death of a family member due to negligence or intentional violent acts, the surviving dependents have a place in the civil court system to pursue compensation for the loss of their loved one through a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action. There are differences between the two, which are important to understand. Here is a brief outline of wrongful death versus survival action so that you can get a clear idea of which one (or both) might be appropriate given the facts of your case.

Wrongful death in Oklahoma

Oklahoma wrongful death lawsuits are intended to compensate the decedent’s loved ones when the negligent acts or omissions of another person caused their death (12 OK Stat § 12-1053).

A wrongful death action compensates the surviving family members for the economic and non-economic losses caused by their loved one’s death, and damages can include:

  • Income the deceased would have earned had they lived
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Grief

The spouse, children and parents of the deceased are beneficiaries of a wrongful death action. Wrongful death proceeds are not subject to probate and are generally not considered income, so the beneficiaries would not pay taxes on the funds received.

Oklahoma’s survival actions

A survival action (12 OK Stat § 12-1051) compensates the decedent’s estate for the injury, such as conscious pain and suffering, they suffered in a cause of action that they would have brought had they not died. The deceased person’s estate is the beneficiary of a survival action. The funds are distributed to their estate and then the estate distributes the proceeds to the heirs per the decedent’s will. If they died without a will, the funds will be distributed according to the intestacy laws of Oklahoma.

Survival actions are administered through the probate process.

While we understand that no amount of money will mend the broken hearts caused by your loved one’s passing, the compensation you receive in a wrongful death or survival action may help make sure that such a mistake does not occur again. It can also help protect you and your loved ones’ futures.

Losing a loved one due the reckless or negligent behavior of someone else can be a completely devastating experience. If you are looking to recover compensation for your loss, you will need an experienced and compassionate attorney by your side who knows how to get results for you. The skilled Oklahoma wrongful death attorneys at Stipe Law Firm are ready to fight for your rights and make sure that you get you the compensation you deserve. You are welcome to contact us or call (918) 505-7741 today for a free consultation in our McAlester office. We serve families throughout Oklahoma.