The unexpected death of a loved one is emotionally and financially challenging to the family members who are left behind. In this time of grief, you may be pressed to make funeral arrangements, care for other family members, or even attend to your own medical needs. The compassionate Philadelphia wrongful death attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm understand how chaotic and devastating this time is for your family, which is why we are prepared to handle every aspect of your lawsuit against the person or business who caused the fatal accident. Take the time you need to mourn, and allow our experienced, knowledgeable legal team to pursue the financial compensation your family deserves.
Serving Pennsylvania, our trusted, award-winning team of wrongful death lawyers have been representing accident victims and their surviving loved ones for nearly 40 years. At The Reiff Law Firm, we work with a network of medical experts and accident investigators to build powerful, innovative, evidence-driven cases, tailoring a unique legal strategy to each individual claim. We know how much these deeply personal and sensitive cases matter to our clients, and fight tirelessly to secure the justice, the compensation, and the sense of closure that allows the survivors to start the healing process.
If you have lost a loved one, we are available around the clock to help. To discuss a wrongful death claim confidentially in a free legal consultation, contact The Reiff Law Firm online, or call our law offices at (215) 246-9000.
What is Considered a “Wrongful Death” in Pennsylvania?
The term “wrongful death” refers to a death caused by the negligence or misconduct of another individual. You may also hear the term “decedent,” which refers to the person who was killed in the accident.
There are many types of injuries or accidents which can form the basis for a wrongful death claim, including:
- Automotive accidents
- Defective products (product liability)
- Hazardous premises (premises liability)
- Medical malpractice
Who Can Sue?
In Pennsylvania, the person who is filing the wrongful death claim, known as the “claimant,” must be a relative of the decedent. The claimant may have to prove in court that he or she has the legal right to seek “monetary damages,” or financial compensation, from the person, group, or company that was responsible for the death of the decedent.
A relative may bring a wrongful death claim for both accidental deaths (such as deaths caused by automotive accidents) and criminal acts (such as deaths caused by physical assault). However, only immediate family members may bring a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania, meaning the decedent’s:
- Spouse (husband or wife)
What Damages are Available for Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death claims may allow the survivors to recover financial compensation for:
- Funeral costs
- Loss of support and companionship
- Medical expenses
- The loss of income suffered by the family
What is the Deadline for Filing a Claim?
State law requires that you file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the date of death in order to preserve your legal claim to compensation. This time limit is known as the “statute of limitations.” Additionally, you may need to take immediate action in order to preserve evidence that supports your wrongful death claim. It is in your best interests to consult with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible in order to determine what steps must be taken to preserve the evidence and file a claim.
Wrongful Death Claims vs. Survival Actions
In addition to a wrongful death claim, a survival action claim may also be available. While a wrongful death and a survival action claim often stem from the same events, a survival action is a distinct legal concept.
Rather than focusing on the losses of the decedent’s close family members, as a wrongful death action does, a survival action focuses on the losses suffered by the decedent him- or herself prior to death. Therefore, damages can include a financial award that the decedent could have sought if not for his or her death. Typically, the most significant portion of the viable survival action damages stems from the pain and suffering experienced by the decedent as a result of the fatal injury.
Common Types of Injuries and Accidents that Cause Wrongful Death
Potential clients often ask what types of personal injury cases and injury scenarios would allow for a wrongful death claim. The answer is that, unfortunately, there are many scenarios which can form the basis for wrongful death actions. However, though the accidents and injuries can vary widely, each case shares the same core elements: a family member must have suffered a fatal injury caused by the intentional, reckless, negligent, or careless actions of another person. In other words, each case requires using evidence to prove that negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions led to the death of the decedent.
At The Reiff Law Firm, we have nearly four decades of experience handling personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Throughout that time, we have worked on cases involving a wide range of accident and injury types. Some of the potential scenarios that can give rise to a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania include:
Amusement Park Accidents
While many people would expect the rides found at fairs, carnivals, and amusement parks to be subject to stringent regulations, the fact is that there is no national regulatory regime. Rather, a patchwork of state safety rules makes it different for parents and caregivers to assess the safety of any particular ride or theme park operator. Often, the failure to perform necessary maintenance or provide adequate training to employees and operators contributes to fatal ride accidents.
While any type of design or manufacturing defect can inflict serious, fatal injuries, the speed and power of a motor vehicle make catastrophic injury more likely when something goes wrong. Recent high-profile vehicle defects that have caused deaths include the GM ignition switch defect and the Takata defective airbag inflator.
Commercial Vehicle and Trucking Accidents
Truckers can cause fatal trucking accidents if they grow fatigued or fall asleep at the wheel, which often occurs when drivers are pushed to violate safety rules limiting the lengths of driving shifts. Trucking companies, maintenance workers, and drivers may be liable for a fatal commercial vehicle accident.
When a loved one seeks medical treatment, he or she expects to receive care that will preserve or improve his or her chances of survival. But when doctors, nurses, surgeons, or other medical professionals make careless mistakes, fatal complications or injuries can result, such as death caused by failure to diagnose cancer, failure to treat an infection, or a serious surgical error or medication error.
Pedestrian accidents, injuries, and fatalities are on the rise in Philadelphia and throughout the United States. Pedestrians are especially vulnerable to being struck by a car or truck in urban environments and on poorly-lit highways and roads where vehicles travel at high rates of speed.
Public Transportation and Mass Transit Accidents
Trains and buses operated by companies like SEPTA, PATCO, NJ Transit, Amtrak, and others provide a necessary service in the metropolitan region around Philadelphia. However, bus and train operators who have undiagnosed conditions like sleep apnea, or who fail to follow proper procedures, can cause passengers to suffer fatal injuries in crashes, derailments, or other types of train accidents.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slips, trips, stumbles, and falls can occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from an uneven or cracked sidewalk to dangerous, unreasonable accumulations of snow and ice. While a slip and fall seems like it would not inflict major damage, these accidents can cause catastrophic, life-altering injuries or death. They can occur in malls, grocery stores, bars, restaurants, hotels, gyms, retail outlets, office buildings, parking lots, fast food franchises, coffee shops, and virtually any other setting.
The actions of a reckless or careless driver can inflict serious consequences on other motorists and their family. Drivers who speed, change lanes erratically, fail to heed traffic signals, and engage in other dangerous behaviors can cause fatal crashes. At The Reiff Law Firm, our fatal auto accident lawyers are prepared to handle the full spectrum of vehicular accident cases, including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, bus accidents, van accidents, taxi accidents, Lyft accidents, and Uber accidents.
Our Wrongful Death Case Results: Settlements and Awards
Our injury attorneys have successfully represented families who have lost loved ones in tragic accidents in Philadelphia and throughout the state of Pennsylvania. We handle all our wrongful death cases with the diligence, care, and compassion. We will focus on protecting your legal rights as we thoroughly investigate the accident and pursue your claim for compensation.
It is important to note that every personal injury or wrongful death case will be decided on its own merits and facts. Thus, past success does not suggest or guarantee that the same or a similar result will be reached in your matter. However, the lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm are proud to present some of our case results to help potential clients familiarize themselves with our practice and legal experience.
Also, please note that we are not always able to reveal all aspects of settlements because of the terms of the settlement agreement. However, our attorneys will always proceed strategically and present clients with all reasonable legal options. Notable The Reiff Law Firm wrongful death case results include:
- Substantial Confidential Wrongful Death Award – Teenager is killed after being struck by a commercial bus in Pennsylvania.
- Substantial Confidential Wrongful Death Settlement – Teenager is killed in a hit-and-run crash. The driver is later apprehended and charged with vehicular homicide.
- Confidential Wrongful Death and Survival Action Recovery – Family member of plaintiff suffered a thyroid storm, causing dangerously high heart rate and body temperature. The individual died shortly after release from the correctional facility where the victim was denied proper medical attention during a multi-week stay.
- Confidential Wrongful Death Settlement – Errant motor vehicle operator strikes and kills jogger, who was a retired teacher.
- Confidential Wrongful Death Settlement – Hospital fails to supervise elderly patient, who used a walker and experienced dizzy spells. The patient fell while unsupervised and died shortly after breaking a hip.
- Confidential Settlement – For the wrongful death of prison inmate.
- Confidential Settlement – For dental malpractice involving improper medication/procedures resulting in death.
- Confidential Settlement – For a 15-passenger van rollover accident resulting in multiple deaths and multiple catastrophic injuries among passengers.
- $1,250,000 Wrongful Death Recovery – For the estate of a woman who died after being released from a city prison, because she did not receive the proper medical care while incarcerated.
- $1,100,000 Wrongful Death Settlement – Construction worker killed when a steel beam fell off a forklift at a construction site. Case settled at mediation for $1,100,000.
- $500,000 Medical Negligence Settlement – Physician failed to properly treat respiratory distress in an asthmatic teenager, resulting in death. The case settled after four days of trial.
While the outcome of any case or legal matter is based on the facts and circumstances present, the lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm are ready to approach an array of wrongful death cases aggressively and strategically.
Our Philadelphia, Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help
If a loved one has been in a serious accident and suffered fatal injuries, you face an incredibly trying situation. While you probably have more than enough on your mind as you process your grief, consider thinking about your family’s future as soon as possible. Remember, under Pennsylvania law, if you fail to file your case within two years, you will not be able to recover compensation for your losses.
Retaining the services of a personal injury law firm that understands Pennsylvania’s wrongful death laws, and has the experience and resources to manage your wrongful death claim effectively, allows you to immediately explore, understand, and preserve your legal options. Call our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 for a free, completely confidential consultation, or contact us online.