Losing a loved one is never easy; the grief can be more difficult to bear when the death is caused by the negligent, reckless, or willful conduct of another party. While no amount of money can ever replace a life, one way to find justice is through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Cooper Schall and Levy, a premier personal injury practice serving clients in the Philadelphia area, has extensive experience handling wrongful death claims. We know that losing a loved one unexpectedly is a life-altering experience and that the emotional and financial burden of wrongful death can be overwhelming. We can help to lift that burden by providing you with knowledge, compassion, and aggressive representation. We will do everything in our power to hold the responsible party accountable for the death of your loved one and help you obtain just compensation.
What is wrongful death in Pennsylvania?
When an individual dies due to the negligence of another party, it is possible to pursue a claim under the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act. This is actually a personal injury lawsuit with two distinct causes of action — a wrongful death action and a survival action.
The first is designed to compensate the decedent’s loved ones for a death that was caused by the negligence, unlawful violence, neglect, or wrongful act of another. In particular, the state’s wrongful death statute is intended to compensate the decedent’s family for economic losses, such as:
- The income the deceased person who have earned had he or she lived
- The funds the decedent would have contributed to his or her family
- The monetary value of the services, society and comfort the decedent would have provided to his or her family
- The reasonable hospital, nursing, medical, funeral, and other expenses related to the injuries that caused the death
Additionally, the Pennsylvania courts have held that wrongful death actions can also compensate the decedent’s loved ones for the emotional and psychological loss that accompanies the decedent’s death. The potential beneficiaries include the decedent’s spouse, children, and/or parents.
The second cause of action — the “survival action” — refers to the causes of action the decedent would have been able to bring for the injuries had he or she survived. Proceeds of a survival action are awarded to the decedent’s estate, which are distributed to the decedent’s heirs according to the terms of the decedent’s will or Pennsylvania’s laws of intestacy if there is no will in place. In any event, a wrongful death claim can only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, or a court-appointed estate administrator if the decedent died without a will.
Leading Reasons for Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death claims can be filed over a wide variety of negligent acts, including:
- Automobile Accidents — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that almost 35,000 people are killed in automobile accidents throughout the nation each year. While DUI is a leading cause of traffic fatalities, distracted driving, speeding, and reckless driving are also contributing factors. Our attorneys believe that negligent drivers must be held accountable for causing the death of other motorists, passengers and/or pedestrians.
- Truck Accidents — Given the fact that commercial trucks are larger and outweigh passenger vehicles by several thousand pounds, a truck accident can be catastrophic for the occupants of a smaller vehicle. Our truck accident attorneys know how to hold negligent trucking companies and truck drivers accountable for wrongful death.
- Medical Malpractice — All medical professionals in Philadelphia have a duty to provide their patients with the appropriate standard of care. A doctor, nurse, surgeon or other healthcare providers who breaches this duty can be held liable for wrongful death. Some of the grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit include diagnostic errors, surgical mistakes, prescription errors, anesthesia errors, and defective medical equipment and devices.
- Product Liability — Manufacturers, designers and distributors that provide defective products to consumers and/or fail to them warn about the risks associated with a product can be held accountable for accidents and injuries that result in wrongful death.
- Violent Crimes — While violent crimes (e.g. assault, homicide) are criminal offenses, it is also possible to hold the defendant civilly liable through a wrongful death lawsuit, regardless of whether he or she is convicted. This is because the burden of proof in a civil action is lower than in a criminal action in which it is necessary to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, to have a valid wrongful death claim, it is only necessary to show the defendant was responsible by a preponderance of the evidence (it is more likely than not).
Contact Our Philadelphia Wrongful Death Attorney
When you work with Cooper Schall and Levy, you will have peace of mind knowing we always stand by you. We will take the time to learn about your loved one, work to hold the responsible party accountable, and fight to help you obtain meaningful compensation.
If your loved one died as the result of another party’s negligent, reckless or willful conduct, you may be angry, afraid and not know where to turn. Remember, we are here to help. Please contact our office today to speak with our attorneys.