People never think they will lose their loved ones in an accident or due to injury. However, every year, thousands of peoples lose their lives due to the negligent actions of careless and reckless individuals. If you have lost a loved one, you may wonder how you will be able to hold the liable parties accountable for the death.
At the Reiff Law Firm, we have gained extensive experience through our decades of work representing victims and their families. We have the necessary skills and tools to hold the at-fault parties accountable for your losses. Schedule a free, confidential consultation with one of our experienced lawyers by calling (215) 246-9000 today.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania?
Wrongful death refers to the death of a person which was caused by the negligent, careless, or reckless actions or omissions of another person. According to 42 Pa. C.S. § 8301 (the Wrongful Death Act), the legal representative of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit in the name of the surviving family members. Usually, the legal representative is determined in the decedent’s will. If there is no designated legal representative, or the person dies intestate, the court can assign one.
This statute recognizes specific family members as a decedent’s beneficiaries who can receive damages in that lawsuit. Only the surviving spouse, the children, or parents of the deceased can obtain compensation for the wrongful death of their loved one.
Our skilled lawyers can help you file your wrongful death claim and determine who can receive benefits from the lawsuit.
The Damages Awarded in a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania
After the death of a loved one, the surviving family can opt to file two types of claims. These claims are known as “wrongful death claims” and “survival claims.”
Wrongful Death Claims
In a wrongful death claim, the surviving spouse, children, or parents can obtain compensation for the death of their loved one. This compensation is awarded to cover medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of companionship, and other losses. In rare cases, the court may award punitive damages. These damages are awarded to punish a defendant’s egregious, and reckless actions. Punitive damages will be awarded on top of the compensation obtained in the wrongful death claim.
In a survival claim, the decedent’s estate can file a lawsuit against the liable parties for their negligent actions. What this means is the decedent’s legal representative will be substituted for the decedent. The intention behind a survival claim is to obtain compensation for pain, suffering, and the lost wages the decedent could have acquired during the rest of their life.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania
The elements you’ll need to show in a wrongful death claim are similar to those in a personal injury lawsuit. Proving these elements is required to make out your case against the at-fault party:
You will need to show the defendant owed your loved one duty. For instance, drivers on the road owe other drivers a duty to follow the rules of the road and avoid accidents through reasonably safe driving. Alternatively, product manufacturers have a duty to produce reasonably safe products, and doctors have a duty to perform medical procedures with the care the average physician in that situation would use.
Breach of Duty
You will need to prove that the defendant breached his duty to demonstrate how they were negligent. You can do so by showing he was driving negligently, carelessly, or with complete disregard for other driver’s safety. In other cases, the negligence may be unreasonable or unsafe decisions or errors that led to your loved one’s death.
To prove causation, you need to show the defendant’s negligent actions actually caused the death of your loved one. For instance, you’ll need to show that the defendant was speeding, and that caused the crash that led to your loved one’s death.
You will need to show that you and your family suffered damages as a consequence of your loved one’s death. For instance, you will need to show you sustained financial losses such as funeral expenses, burial expenses, and medical expenses. Our skilled wrongful death lawyers can help you collect evidence to prove the amounts of these damages and prove them in court.
Time Limits for Filing Wrongful Death Actions in Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania limits the time every plaintiff has to file their claims. The law that sets these limits is known as the “statute of limitations.” If you are submitting a wrongful death claim, you must do it within two years from the date of your loved one’s death. If you miss this time limit, you may lose your chance to obtain compensation for your losses. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you file your claims on time.
Allentown Wrongful Death Attorneys Offering Free Consultations
Dealing with the death of a loved one can be hard for you and your children. The situation can worsen knowing medical, funeral, and burial bills keep piling up. However, you don’t have to go through this trying time alone. If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligent actions, we can help. At the Reiff Law Firm, we understand the difficulties associated with the sudden passing of a loved one. That is why we dedicate ourselves to pursuing claims and holding the responsible parties accountable for your losses. To learn more about your case in a free, confidential consultation, call our law offices today at (215) 246-9000.