Virulence of the human pathogen, V. vulnificus, is associated with encapsulation, serum complement resistance, and genotype. The C-genotype of this bacterium is correlated (>90%) with virulence and with isolation source (clinical settings). E-genotype strains are highly correlated with environmental isolation (93%) but appear less virulent. In this study, we characterized the importance of genotype, encapsulation, serum complement, and in situ exposure to estuarine water on the survival of the two genotypes in human serum. Results confirmed the superior ability of C-genotype strains to survive exposure to human serum, as well as the significance of complement, and revealed that lack of capsule allowed serum killing of both C- and E-genotypes. Cells incubated in situ responded similarly to cells incubated in vitro with the exception of E-environmental strains. Interestingly, our studies found that those cells of the E-genotype, typically considered non-pathogenic, which were isolated from wound infections demonstrated serum survival similar to that of virulent, C-genotype, strains.