How to File a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident in Pennsylvania
When fatal car accidents happen, families want justice. In Pennsylvania, wrongful death claims can be filed against negligent drivers so that surviving family members can recover compensation for their losses.
To file a wrongful death claim immediately after a fatal accident in Pennsylvania, surviving family members should identify which of them is the victim’s personal representative. This will be the person who files the lawsuit. Then, prepare your case by confirming the cause of the victim’s death and gathering evidence against the negligent party. Wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of a victim’s death. If you plan on filing a survival action as well, the deadline will be two years from the date of injury, not death. Different compensation is available in wrongful death claims and survival actions. All compensation will be awarded to the victim’s surviving beneficiaries.
To have our Philadelphia wrongful death lawyers assess your case for free, call The Reiff Law Firm now at (215) 709-6940.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident in Pennsylvania
Car accident fatalities are common and might occur at the collision site, within the following days at the hospital, or even weeks later as victims succumb to their injuries. If your loved one died because of a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim against them in Pennsylvania.
Identify the Victim’s Personal Representative
Generally speaking, only a victim’s personal representative can file a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania. This individual does so on behalf of the victim’s surviving family members. If a victim did not appoint a personal representative before their death, the court can do so. If a personal representative does not file a wrongful death claim within six months of a victim’s death, any eligible surviving family member or beneficiary can do so. This includes any person entitled to recovery in a wrongful death lawsuit, such as a victim’s spouse or children.
Review the Victim’s Medical Records
When car accidents cause severe injuries that immediately result in a victim’s death, it may be easier to connect their death to injuries sustained in a car accident. In other cases, the cause of death is not always so clear. Because wrongful death claims are so serious, defendants might attempt to argue that a victim died wholly or partially because of a pre-existing condition or injury, not one solely caused by a motor vehicle accident. To prevent this from happening, it is important to review the victim’s medical records immediately after their death. Our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers can enlist help from medical experts who can provide statements explaining the cause of the victim’s death and why any pre-existing conditions they might have had would have been unrelated to their death.
File the Claim Before the Deadline
Wrongful death claims brought because of fatal car accidents must be filed within the statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, that is two years from the date of the victim’s death, not two years from the date they sustained their injuries. So, if your loved one was severely injured in a collision but did not die from their injuries for weeks, months, or even years following the accident, you will have two years from the date they died to file your claim. If a wrongful death lawsuit is not brought by the deadline, surviving family members will be unable to recover compensatory damages for their losses in Pennsylvania. If you plan on filing a survival action on behalf of your deceased loved one, the statute of limitations for this type of claim will be two years from the date of injury, not the date of death.
Prove the Negligent Driver’s Fault
In order to hold a negligent driver accountable for your loved one’s death in Pennsylvania, you must prove their fault in a lawsuit. Proving fault requires evidence, which our attorneys can uncover during an investigation into a car accident. When investigating the collision that caused the victim’s death, we will review police reports and eyewitness statements. We will also gather additional evidence, such as security footage and photographs. In tandem with the victim’s medical records, such evidence can be sufficient to meet the burden of proof against the defendant and clearly demonstrate their fault for your loved one’s death in Pennsylvania.
Recover Compensatory Damages
Under Pennsylvania’s wrongful death statute, certain damages are recoverable for surviving family members. Eligible family members can recover compensation for loss of future income. This can provide the financial support that a family would have received had their loved one survived and been able to return to work. Other damages, such as loss of comfort, are also available in wrongful death claims in Pennsylvania.
In addition to wrongful death claims, personal representatives can bring survival actions. While a wrongful death lawsuit is brought on behalf of the family, a survival action is brought on behalf of the victim. This can result in compensation for the medical expenses a victim incurred because of their injuries. Survival actions can also provide compensation for any pain and suffering or emotional distress a victim experienced before their death. Damages awarded in a survival action will go to the victim’s beneficiaries, as will damages awarded in a wrongful death claim.
Compensation can be recovered in a settlement or at trial. While going to trial can be an emotional process for a victim’s family, it can also be somewhat healing. At trial, you can hold the driver that caused your loved one’s death responsible. Greater compensation might also be available when families take wrongful death claims to court instead of settling in Pennsylvania.
Call Our Lawyers to Discuss a Fatal Car Accident in Pennsylvania
Call our Allentown, PA wrongful death lawyers at (215) 709-6940 to set up a free and confidential case assessment with The Reiff Law Firm.