A wrongful death lawyer can help bring justice after tragedy.
You will need a wrongful death lawyer when a tragic accident causes the death of another person because of someone else’s negligence. Some wrongful death lawsuits follow a criminal case in which another person unlawfully killed a victim, but most involve negligence. Wrongful death lawsuits are a civil lawsuit where families can seek to recover damages like:
- Hospital and medical bills before the person’s death
- Pain and suffering the deceased experienced before their time of death
- Lost wages from between the person’s injury and the time of death
- The decedent’s emotional distress before their death
- Costs related to the funeral, burial, and administration of the decedent’s estate
Personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death claims are similar kinds of lawsuits. Both actions will result from the same types of events. For families who lose a loved one in a wrongful death action, filing a lawsuit might not be the first thing on their minds. However, untimely accidental deaths can cause financial hardship and emotional stress. The damages available in a personal injury claim can help shift some of the burden to the liable party.
If your family lost someone in a tragic accident, contact a Pennsylvania wrongful death lawyer for a free consultation at Kitay Law Offices to discuss your options for pursuing a claim.
Suing for Wrongful Death
When one person causes the death of another individual, the law offers remedies so that the family can hold the responsible party liable and recover compensation. Certain types of accidents commonly lead to personal injuries and, potentially, fatalities. Wrongful death claims frequently fall into one of the below categories.
Traveling in an automobile is one of the most dangerous things most of us do regularly. Car crashes kill tens of thousands of Americans each year and injure many more. Personal injury cases often involve negligent drivers who cause collisions.
Some common causes of car accidents include drivers who are drunk, distracted, texting, speeding, or violating other traffic laws. Other vehicles also lead to different types of collisions. For instance, large trucks present risks to others on the road because of their size. Motorcycles tend to be smaller than other vehicles on the road, and drivers frequently overlook them, leading to tragic results and the need for a wrongful death lawyer.
Pedestrian and Bike Crashes
We rely on medical professionals to keep us healthy and safe. However, malpractice in the medical field leads to injuries and death more often than many people realize. Doctors may cause injuries by failing to diagnose the condition, prescribing the wrong medication, or harming a patient during a surgical procedure. Medical malpractice cases often lead to personal injury and wrongful death claims.
Injuries that occur because of dangerous circumstances on a piece of property are another source of wrongful death claims. For example, if you walk into a store and trip on broken tiles that the building manager or owner failed to repair, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim. The law demands that property owners and managers keep their premises reasonably safe.
The level of care owed will vary depending on whether the victim is a customer at a store, a social visitor, or a trespasser. However, some level of care will exist in any of these cases. If a fall or other premises-related injury leads to death, the victim’s family may have a wrongful death claim against the owner or manager. If this happens you will need a wrongful death lawyer.
Product liability claims involve a dangerous product that causes injury or death to a person who uses that product in a foreseeable way or as intended. One example of the product liability claim would be if a victim suffered fatal injuries in a minor car crash because their airbag exploded with too much force.
Injuries and fatalities at workplaces may also lead to wrongful death claims. Certain professions are more prone to these types of accidents. For example, industrial sites, factories, and construction sites tend to be potentially dangerous for workers. If you lost a loved one in a workplace accident, speak to a wrongful death lawyer in Pennsylvania about whether you should file a wrongful death action or workers compensation claim. In fact, both claims may be possible, depending on the circumstances.
Wrongful Death Law
In Pennsylvania, the law provides two different types of claims relating to the accidental loss of life of a loved one. First, there are wrongful death claims under Pa.C.S. Section 5524. Secondly, there are survival actions under 42 Pa. Cons. State. Ann. Section 8302.
What happens in a wrongful death lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit seeks to recover compensation for losses families suffer because someone is no longer in their life. Courts will calculate your damages based on the loss from the time your loved one died through your expected lifespan.
In these cases, you may recover compensation for the following:
- Financial support the deceased individual provided
- The work that the deceased individual contributed to the home
- The loss of companionship and guidance provided by the deceased
- In the case of spouses, for the loss of affection
Survival Action Damages
Survival actions differ from wrongful death claims because they seek to address separate grievances from those involved in wrongful death claims. In a survival action, plaintiffs can seek to recover losses experienced by the decedent.
For instance, in a survival action, you may recover for:
- The cost of medical bills associated with the person’s death
- Compensation for any pain and suffering your loved one experienced before their time of death
- Lost wages which would have been earned by the deceased person from the time of injury to the time of death
- The emotional distress suffered by the deceased’s loved one prior to the death
- Expenses associated with the funeral, burial, and administration of the decedent’s estate
There are technical differences between how the state taxes damages recovered in these two types of actions. Beneficiaries recover compensation differently in settlements or verdicts for either of these claims as well. If you lost a loved one in an accident, you will need to consult with a Pennsylvania wrongful death lawyer who can guide you through the process. Your attorney will explain how the different types of claims apply in your case.
Can Parents Sue for Wrongful Death? Who Can File a Claim?
Only certain relatives have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Qualifying relatives include spouses, children, and parents.
Survival actions are different. A personal representative, such as an executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate, must bring the action. The beneficiaries named in the decedent’s will can recover the damages from that lawsuit. In some cases, a personal representative will fail to file a claim within six months of the person’s death. If that happens, beneficiaries can take the steps necessary to file a survival action on their own behalf. When a decedent listed a charity as a beneficiary in their will, that organization may also recover compensation.
What is Considered Wrongful Death?
In order to file a successful wrongful death claim, your wrongful death lawyer will have to be able to prove several things, including:
- The defendant acted negligently when they caused the accident that killed your loved one
- That person owed a duty of care
- The defendant violated their duty of care
- The violation of the defendant’s duty led to your loved one’s death
- You experienced losses because of your loved one’s death
For example, if your loved one died in a car accident, you would need to show that another driver negligently operated their vehicle and that the negligent act caused a collision that killed your loved one. In this example, the driver owed everyone on the road a duty to operate their vehicle as a reasonably cautious driver. A violation of that duty would include running through a red light or any number of other traffic violations. If that driver did violate a red light and therefore crashed into your loved one’s car, then the violation is a cause of the victim’s death.
Comparative Negligence Claims in Pennsylvania
Car accidents and other similar events can often be difficult to understand after the fact. In many cases, more than one person will be responsible for causing a collision. If someone suffers injuries or dies because of that crash, the victim or their family may need to illustrate that the other driver or other person is more at fault for the accident than was the victim. Individuals who share liability may still recover from a more at-fault party because Pennsylvania practices comparative negligence.
How to Calculate Comparative Damages
Imagine that a motorcyclist is speeding as they approach a vehicle in an adjacent lane. Next, the driver in the other lane changes into the motorcyclist’s lane without checking their blind spot or using a turn signal. The two vehicles collide. In this scenario, both motorists may share liability. Of course, the motorcyclist, in this case, will be more likely to suffer the consequences of the crash.
If the motorcyclist dies in that collision, family members may wish to hold the driver of the other vehicle accountable. Filing a wrongful death action or a survival action can accomplish that objective. The driver in the other car may argue that the motorcyclist, who was speeding, bears most of the responsibility.
In this case, courts may assign a percentage of liability to each of the motorists. As long as the motorcyclist was 50 percent, or less, liable for the crash, the family will still be able to recover damages.
The ability to recover damages remains so long as the victim is not more at fault than the other individual. However, in such matters, the victim’s family will recover a lower percentage of the damages.
Imagine that in the above example, the court found that the motorcyclist was 40 percent at fault. The other driver would therefore be 60 percent at fault. If the court calculates the total compensation for the loss of life at $1,000,000, the family will recover $600,000. The reduced damages will reflect a motorcyclist’s share of liability for the crash.
How Long Do You Have to Sue for Wrongful Death?
Families who lose a loved one in an accident will struggle emotionally and potentially financially as well. While loved ones will need time to grieve, you should never wait to speak to a wrongful death lawyer about your claim. In Pennsylvania, families must typically file a wrongful death action within two years or less of the date of the accident.
If the statute of limitations prevents a claim, courts will not hear the matter. The court will bar the claim even if the family has an otherwise valid lawsuit. Although two years may sound like a long time, the sooner you speak to a wrongful death lawyer, the better. Your attorney can help by speaking to insurance companies on your behalf. Providing your representative with extra time to investigate, build a strategy, and attempt to negotiate a settlement will help improve your case.
Looking for an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer?
If you are searching for wrongful death lawyers, use our helpful guide to find the best fit for your case. Importantly, you should speak with a Pennsylvania wrongful death lawyer to learn more about your legal rights as soon as possible. You may have available options for recovering damages. The compensation available to family members can help alleviate financial stresses created by a tragic event.
Kitay Law Offices has more than 25 years of experience representing clients in Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation, Immigration, and Criminal & DUI Defense matters. We have offices conveniently located throughout central and southeastern Pennsylvania.
Call Kitay Law Offices today to speak to a compassionate and experienced Pennsylvania wrongful death lawyer.