Losing a loved one in an accident is one of the most difficult experiences a family can face. In addition to grieving and coping with emotional trauma, survivors may have to deal with financial and practical repercussions as well. Although no amount of money can bring a loved one back, if someone else’s negligence caused their death, you may be able to find recourse and hold them accountable by filing a wrongful death claim. A local injury lawyer can help you understand how wrongful death actions work in Pennsylvania and determine whether or not you have a potential claim.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Pennsylvania law defines a wrongful death as one that is “caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.” Even If a person who caused a wrongful death is not criminally charged or convicted, you can still file a civil case for damages against them.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim In Pennsylvania?
Navigating the laws surrounding wrongful death in Pennsylvania is challenging. A civil wrongful death claim can only be filed by the personal representative of a decedent’s estate. The executor of the will or a personal representative appointed by the court brings the claim on behalf of the beneficiaries of the estate. If a claim is not filed within six months of the person’s death, a beneficiary is entitled to file a claim on behalf of all beneficiaries of an estate. Whether you are the personal representative of a loved one’s estate or a beneficiary who is filing a claim, it is vital to have a lawyer guide you through the process.
Common Types of Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death is often the result of a car accident, motorcycle crash, bicycle or pedestrian collision, or an accident involving a tractor trailer or drunk driver. Depending on the circumstances, multiple parties may be liable for damages. For example, if a faulty truck part causes brake failure that leads to an accident, the parts manufacturer, trucking company, truck driver, or even a mechanic or maintenance company may be liable for injuries and losses stemming from the crash.
Damages in wrongful death claims often include:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial costs
- Estate administration expenses
- Loss of income and benefits, including income that a deceased person would have reasonably earned and contributed to their family’s support over the course of their remaining work life.
- Compensation for the loss of comfort, society, and household services
- Loss of love, affection, and consortium
- Loss of moral guidance and support
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
- Other applicable damages
Loss of companionship, support, moral guidance, and pain and suffering are meant to compensate surviving loved ones such as a spouse, children, or parents. Punitive damages are not awarded to compensate the deceased person’s loved ones, but to punish the defendant if their actions were particularly egregious or willfully harmful. Calculating damages in a wrongful death claim is a complex process that often requires the input of professionals such as forensic accountants and economists.
Determining Whether You Have a Wrongful Death Claim
These types of cases require extensive investigation and the knowledge of car accident attorneys who are well-versed in handling wrongful death claims. The statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death or personal injury claim in Pennsylvania is typically two years from the date of death, Although it could be earlier, so the sooner you speak to a lawyer, the better. The best accident attorneys offer a free initial consultation, so you can ask questions and find out your options at no cost to you.