A wrongful death claim can be brought in cases when someone would have been able to bring a personal injury claim but died before being able to do so because they were fatally injured due to negligence or an intentional, harmful act perpetrated by the defendant in the action. For instance, a wrongful death action may be brought when the victim died as a result of car crash injuries or complications caused by medical malpractice. Not just anyone can bring a wrongful death action, however. Pennsylvania has specific laws in place that govern who has the right and ability to bring a wrongful death action on behalf of a deceased victim.
Suing for Wrongful Death in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania requires that the personal representative of the victim’s estate bring a wrongful death claim. The personal representative is often assigned according to the terms laid out in the will of the deceased individual. If there is no personal representative provided for in the will, or if there is no will, the court is likely to appoint a personal representative. It is important to understand that while the personal representative brings the wrongful death action, he or she is actually filing the claim on behalf of the beneficiaries of the victim’s estate. Also, if the personal representative does not file the wrongful death claim within six months of the date of the victim’s death, then the beneficiaries have the right to file.
The beneficiaries are referred to as the “real parties in interest.” Pennsylvania considers real parties in interest to be limited to children and parents of the deceased. It does not matter whether the real parties in interest live in Pennsylvania or somewhere else. Pennsylvania limits who can benefit from a wrongful death action to the real parties in interest. This means that siblings, nieces, and nephews, along with more distant familial relations do not have a cause of action under the state’s Wrongful Death Act.
There are several things that may be included in the damages award when a wrongful death action is successful. For instance, all of the following may be awarded:
- Household contributions
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages and benefits
- Loss of care and comfort
- Loss of guidance and tutelage
- Medical expenses
- Expenses related to estate administration
- Pain and suffering
Some of these things are recoverable to compensate for a surviving spouse or children. Others listed are intended to compensate the estate of the deceased. This means that, even if there are no surviving children and no surviving spouse, an estate may still file a wrongful death action in order to recover things such as funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses, and expenses related to the administration of the estate.
Wrongful Death Attorneys
The loss of a loved one is devastating. When it is the result of something like medical malpractice or a tragic accident, it can be sudden and shocking. That is why the dedicated wrongful death attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy take care of the legal action. We know that families are left to carry heavy emotional and financial burdens after the loss of a loved one. We held by leading the charge to enforce your legal right to compensation for your losses. Contact us today.