Who can sue for wrongful death in Pennsylvania?
Learn more about your rights to sue for wrongful death in Pennsylvania. The loss of a family member is devastating both emotionally and financially. Someone you depended on is no longer there. The pain of loss is worse if someone else’s negligence or wrongful action caused the death. In Pennsylvania, a party has only a limited amount of time to pursue and file a wrongful death case.
In the case of a wrongful death, the family faces two big questions. Do they have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit? If so, who is entitled to recover damages? Take prompt action to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney.
Definition of Wrongful Death
When a person dies as the result of the careless or negligent action of another, the death is said to be wrongful. Examples of wrongful death are fatalities resulting from motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice and nursing home neglect. When a wrongful death occurs, the family members of the deceased person have the right to file a claim against the responsible party.
A wrongful death claim is different from a criminal case in that it is concerned with compensating the family members for their emotional and financial losses. Some death cases, such as a fatal drunk driving accident, can lead to criminal charges as well as wrongful death action.
A representative of the Estate is required
A wrongful death claim is filed by someone who represents the victim’s estate. In Pennsylvania, that right is limited to children, parents and spouses of the deceased. The representative does not have to live in Pennsylvania. The representative files the wrongful death claim on behalf of all of the beneficiaries of the estate.
An experienced wrongful death attorney can guide your family through the legal steps of naming a representative.
Recoverable Damages IN WRONGFUL DEATH CASES
In a wrongful death claim, the surviving family members can seek compensation for economic and noneconomic damages resulting from the death. Examples of damages include:
- Burial/funeral costs
- Estate administration costs
- Hospital/medical costs incurred prior to death
- Loss of household services and comfort that was provided by the deceased (which are only available if the beneficiaries are the deceased’s children, parent or spouse)
- Lost benefits and wages
- Pain and suffering prior to death
Who IS Entitled to Recover Damages?
The damages that are recovered in a wrongful death claim are distributed among the beneficiaries in the proportion they would receive if the decedent died without a will in Pennsylvania. This is known as the law of intestate succession.
When someone dies without a will in Pennsylvania, their estate will be distributed among their beneficiaries under the state’s law of intestate succession. Beneficiaries include the decedent’s children, spouse and parents. Beneficiaries do not have to live in the United States to receive a share of the estate.
The laws determining who is eligible and what share of the estate they are entitled to receive are extremely complex. For example, a person who shares one parent with the deceased (a half relative) is entitled to a share of the recovery. A child or brother or sister born after the death may receive a share. Only an experienced attorney can advise you concerning who is entitled to a share of the recovery. An attorney can also review the circumstances of your loved one’s death and build the strongest case possible for the beneficiaries.