Under Pennsylvania law, wrongful death is an avoidable death “caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.” Generally, the actions causing a wrongful death are the same that may give rise to a personal injury claim. In a wrongful death claim, the victim is deceased and thus unable to pursue their own claim, so a person affected by the loss of the victim seeks compensation for losses related to the fatal injury.
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania?
For loved ones of victims killed in preventable accidents, legal action may provide a sense of justice, closure, and in some cases, necessary financial support. In Pennsylvania, a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case and must be filed by a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. That representative acts on behalf of all the deceased person’s beneficiaries. In a criminal case, a prosecuting attorney would file the claim.
The personal representative has six months after the date of death to file a claim. If they fail to do so in that timeframe, any other beneficiaries can then file the claim. Beneficiaries include “any person entitled by law to recover damages,” including the deceased person’s spouse, parents, and/or children. Only one beneficiary is legally permitted to file a claim at a time. The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania is typically two years from the date of death.
Damages allowed in a Pennsylvania wrongful death claim
In Pennsylvania, beneficiaries can potentially recover measurable expenses, such as nursing and hospital care, medical bills, and funeral and burial costs. The loss of the deceased person’s income and other financial contributions can also be recovered. Less simple to calculate but still potentially recoverable is compensation for the loss of a loved one’s guidance and parental care for children. These costs are called “non-economic” damages.
It is important to note the difference between a wrongful death and a survival action. Where a wrongful death lawsuit addresses the losses to the beneficiaries caused by the victim’s passing, a survival action focuses on the what the victim could have claimed in a personal injury lawsuit had he or she survived. Survival actions are most commonly used to recover compensation for the pain and suffering endured by the deceased victim before the time of his or her death. These types of claims can only be brought by personal representatives, executors, or administrators of the victim’s estate, as opposed to wrongful death suits which can also be filed by beneficiaries.
Philadelphia Wrongful Death Lawyers McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Assist Loved Ones in Filing Wrongful Death Claims
When a loved one has died, it can be hard to face the practical matters surrounding their passing. Without the victim’s income and emotional support, a family’s pain over their loss turns to fear about the future. If your loved one has been fatally injured in a preventable accident caused by another’s reckless act, you do have legal recourse. To discuss your options, call McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC at 215-569-8488 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with a compassionate and highly qualified Philadelphia wrongful death lawyer. With offices in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware.