Wrongful Death Claims
Losing a family member is devastating. When that persons’ death was caused by another’s negligence, the feelings of loss and grief can be unbearable, because you know that their death could have been prevented.
In Pennsylvania, there are laws that permit survivors to pursue justice and financial compensation after the wrongful death of a loved one.
What is a Wrongful Death Action?
When a person’s death is caused by the negligence of a person, such as a drunk driver; or a company – for example, a negligent pharmaceutical company or auto manufacturer; survivors can file a wrongful death action.
Every one of the fifty states has some type of law permitting wrongful death actions. In Pennsylvania, a wrongful death is statutorily defined as a death “caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence of another.” A wrongful death claim is a civil action, which can be brought in conjunction with a criminal action.
A wrongful death action is similar to a personal injury claim, where the injured party is no longer able to pursue their own claim for damages. The decedent’s survivors are permitted by statute to file the claim on their behalf.
In Pennsylvania, Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
Not just anyone can file a lawsuit for the wrongful death of another person. The claim must be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. Although the claim is technically filed by the personal representative, the beneficiaries will be the recipients of any damages awarded by the court.
In general, if the personal representative does not file a claim within six months of the death, any one of the beneficiaries may file suit on behalf of the beneficiary class.
Who Can Be Sued for Wrongful Death?
Any negligent person or entity can be the subject of a wrongful death action. This includes individuals, corporations, or government agencies. A suit can be filed against numerous responsible parties.
For example, if a patient dies in a hospital due to faulty medical equipment or a medication error, one might sue:
- The hospital
- The equipment or pharmaceutical manufacturer
- The nursing staff who administered the drugs or used the medical equipment on the patient
- The physician who ordered administration of the drugs or use of the equipment
In the event of a car accident, one might sue the driver, the urban planner who designed the roadway, the government agency who failed to provide adequate warnings, the auto manufacturer, and even an establishment that served the negligent driver alcohol, if that was a factor in the crash.
What Kind of Damages Are Available in Pennsylvania?
If a wrongful death claim is successful, the beneficiaries may be entitled to various types of damages. These damages would be in addition to whatever sanctions are incurred in any criminal suit, and would accrue to the beneficiaries to compensate them for the economic impacts associated with their loss.
Some damages available to survivors in Pennsylvania include:
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses
- Estate administration expenses
- Lost wages, including benefits and wages the decedent reasonably would have been expected to provide had he or she survived
- Loss of services (child care, housekeeping, etc.)
- Loss of companionship, society and comfort
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
State law determines how the damages are distributed, rather than the decedent’s will. Spouses and children are accorded priority, followed by surviving parents. Siblings are generally not eligible to recover wrongful death damages in the state of Pennsylvania.
Recovered damages cannot be used to reimburse creditors of the decedent. The money must go to the close family members and the estate of the decedent.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Action?
Every state has a different statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim. In Pennsylvania, one must file a claim within two years of the date of death. Claims filed beyond the limitations period will likely be dismissed by the court. However, every case is unique and there are some exceptions to this rule.
Pittsburgh Wrongful Death Lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. Will Help Clients Obtain Justice and Compensation
If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, we can help you get answers and justice. The dedicated Pittsburgh wrongful death lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. have extensive experience representing families in a wide range of personal injury and wrongful death claims. We pride ourselves on our steadfast dedication to our clients.
To learn more, call us today at 412-765-1888 or contact us online. We provide free consultations to clients in Pittsburgh, New Castle, and Washington, Pennsylvania as well as individuals throughout Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.