The unexpected death of a loved one can be a life-altering event – one fraught not only with emotional pain but also fear about financial uncertainty. A successful wrongful death lawsuit can result in substantial compensation, providing a certain measure of financial security.
As set forth in Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Act (42 Pa.C.S. § 8301), “An action may be brought, under procedures prescribed by general rules, to recover damages for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another if no recovery for the same damages claimed in the wrongful death action was obtained by the injured individual during his lifetime and any prior actions for the same injuries are consolidated with the wrongful death claim so as to avoid a duplicate recovery.”
A number of situations can give rise to a wrongful death claim. They include, but aren’t limited to:
- motor vehicle accidents
- construction accidents
- medical malpractice
- slip and falls
- defective products
- violent crimes
Who Can File a Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death claims in Pennsylvania can only be brought by the personal representative of an estate. However, if the personal representative does not file the claim in a timely manner, any of the deceased person’s beneficiaries may file it on behalf of all beneficiaries.
Who Are the Eligible Beneficiaries?
In Pennsylvania, the only relatives that are eligible to be beneficiaries are the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased person. What’s more, these survivors have the burden of demonstrating that they sustained financial damage as a result of the death. Siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other relatives cannot be a part of the settlement, even if they were dependent on the deceased.
Distribution Of Monies
Settlement monies are split and distributed in accordance with Pennsylvania’s intestate succession laws that govern how property is distributed when someone dies without a will. These laws determine who gets the money in wrongful death cases, whether the deceased person left a will or not.
If no person is eligible to recover damages, the personal representative of the deceased may bring an action to recover damages for reasonable hospital, nursing, medical, funeral expenses and expenses of administration necessitated by reason of injuries causing death.
Under Pennsylvania law, various types of economic and noneconomic losses may be recovered in wrongful death lawsuits. These include:
- loss of decedent’s future income
- loss of inheritance
- medical bills
- funeral and burial expenses
- administration of the estate
- loss of decedent’s companionship, comfort, and care
- mental anguish
- pain and suffering