Wrongful Death Laws in Pennsylvania
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The unfortunate and unexpected passing of a relative often leaves the surviving family members in a state of grief and despair. In addition to battling with the emotional aspect of the situation, the surviving family members must also face the economic realities. For instance, the surviving family members may be left scrambling to figure out how future bills and expenses will be paid for.
In these types of situations, a wrongful death cause of action may be available to help seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of civil action that are brought against a person or entity who can be held liable for the death of another individual. Because wrongful death causes of action are established by individual state law, it is difficult to provide a generalized description of a wrongful death claim.
If you have experienced the death of loved one, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our wrongful death attorneys.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a private, civil claim brought by the surviving members of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death. A wrongful death claim exists when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person. A wrongful death lawsuit, if successful, can provide financial compensation in the form of money damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.
Broadly speaking, any fatality caused by the wrongful acts of another may provide grounds for initiating a wrongful death claim. The State of Pennsylvania defines wrongful death as one that is “caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another”.
Pennsylvania’s wrongful death statute essentially treats a wrongful death claim as a personal injury claim that the deceased would have been able to bring if death had not occurred. This means that if the actions of the at-fault party would have entitled the deceased to pursue a personal injury claim, then the survivors of the deceased will be able to pursue a wrongful death claim in order to establish the defendant’s liability and seek damages.
It is important to note that although the circumstances of a case may prompt law enforcement and prosecutors to criminally charge a defendant, a civil wrongful death action may still be pursued in civil court. However, because the interaction of criminal and civil cases arising from the same occurrence may pose difficult legal questions, it is worth discussing your options with a wrongful death attorney.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania law mandates that a wrongful death claim be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. This personal representative is often designated by name in the deceased’s estate plan. Common choices include surviving spouses, adult siblings, or adult children of the deceased.
Although the personal representative is responsible for filing a wrongful death claim, the claim is brought on behalf of the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate. These beneficiaries include the decedent’s spouse, children, and parents. Any damages recovered by a successful wrongful death claim will be distributed to the beneficiaries in proportional amounts based on an individual’s relation to the decedent.
What Damages are Available in a Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Claim?
A successful wrongful death claim will lead to compensation in the form money damages. These damages are intended to compensate the surviving family members for losses related to the death. In Pennsylvania, the damages recoverable for a wrongful death claim may include the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical and hospital expenses
- Estate administration expenses
- Lost wages and benefits, including amounts the deceased reasonably would have been expected to contribute to his or her family’s support if he or she had lived
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- Compensation for the loss of household services, society, and comfort provided by the deceased, including provision of both physical comforts and services and moral guidance, comfort, and support
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania law requires that a wrongful death claim be filed within two years of the date of the decedent’s death. This statute of limitations means that wrongful death claims filed more than two years after the date of death are effectively barred from being heard in court. However, some circumstances may “toll” or pause this two-year time period. If you find yourself near the filing deadline, it is worth discussing your case with an attorney who may be able to provide valuable information and guidance regarding Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations.
Understanding the details of a wrongful death claim can ultimately provide you with valuable information in the event that you or a family member experience the loss of a loved one. In a moment where stress is likely to be at an all-time high, some solace can be found in knowing that there is a way to pursue compensation for your losses.
At Zinda Law Group, our attorneys have plenty of experience litigating and resolving wrongful death cases. Our team has the resources necessary to help build the strongest claim following the death of a loved one. Our dedicated attorneys are on stand-by, waiting to help grieving family members seek fair compensation for their losses.
If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death claim, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation.
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