Suffering the wrongful death of a loved one is always a catastrophic loss. When it occurs not as a result of negligence or misjudgment but due to a violent crime, survivors are burdened with another layer of emotional pain. If you are going through the unbearable aftermath of losing a person you love to a violent crime, contacting the well-respected wrongful death attorneys of Cooper Schall & Levy will help you by giving you back a sense of purpose and control.
How Is “Wrongful Death” Defined in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, wrongful death is defined as one that is “caused by the wrongful act, neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.” Therefore, wrongful death may be the result of a number of causes, e.g. a car accident resulting from another person’s reckless or impaired driving, medical malpractice, or, as in the cases we are discussing, a violent crime. A wrongful death claim is designed to bring fair compensation to the survivors left behind.
Differences Between Death by Violent Crime Lawsuits and Criminal Homicide Cases
When our lawyers win damages for wrongful death due to violent crime in civil court, the court metes out justice in the form of monetary compensation. On the other hand, when a prosecutor representing the state gets a conviction for criminal homicide, the perpetrator is directly punished with jail or prison time, probation, and other legal sanctions.
It should be remembered that the family of the deceased can pursue a wrongful death suit in civil court whether or not the perpetrator has been charged with or convicted of a crime.
The other significant difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and a criminal homicide case is that the burden of proof is considerably lower in the former than in the latter. In a criminal case, the accused’s guilt must be established “beyond a reasonable doubt,” while in a wrongful death lawsuit, the defendant’s liability need only be shown by “a preponderance of the evidence.”
This means that you stand a much better chance of achieving a positive outcome in civil court, especially when you have our talented wrongful death attorneys on your side.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the personal representative (executor) of the deceased’s estate must file the wrongful death claim. Nonetheless, if the personal representative does not take action within six months after the date of death, one of the beneficiaries may file the lawsuit on behalf of all eligible beneficiaries.
Who benefits from damages awarded in a wrongful death/violent crime case?
Wrongful death laws vary from state to state, but in Pennsylvania, only the following close relatives can benefit from awarded damages after the successful outcome of a wrongful death case:
- Surviving spouse
- Minor children (typically not adult children)
- Parents (typically of minor children)
Under Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Act, more distant relatives of the deceased (e.g. brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins) have no right to take legal action, even in cases in which a violent crime has caused the death.
Damages Our Wrongful Death by Violent Crime Attorneys Will Fight to Win
At Cooper Schall & Levy, our legal team has a well-earned reputation for aggressive litigation and excellent tactics of persuasion. Well aware of the terrible trauma you and your family have endured, we will do everything in our power to bring you the compensation you need and deserve to restart your lives after the tragedy. We will fight vigorously to obtain damages for:
- Final medical expenses
- Pre-death suffering of the victim
- Funeral and burial/cremation costs
- Estate administration expenses
- Lost income and benefits the deceased would reasonably
- be expected to earn had she or he lived
- Loss of the deceased’s household services
- Loss of physical and emotional companionship, support, and guidance
Because a wrongful death due to violent crime is, by any account, malicious and intentional, it will likely be considered egregious by the court. As a result, the deceased’s kin may also be awarded punitive damages, i.e. damages designed to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar misconduct.
How Wrongful Death Damages Are Distributed in Pennsylvania
Generally, the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased may recover damages in proportion to what they would be awarded under intestate laws. This aspect of a wrongful death lawsuit can be complicated, particularly if minor children are left without a parent and must now have a guardian. This is one of the reasons it is imperative to have a savvy wrongful death attorney handling your case.
What is the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is two years. Unless there are extremely unusual circumstances, if your lawsuit is not filed within the 2-year limit, the court will likely refuse to hear your case.
Why You Need Our Wrongful Death Due to Violent Crime Attorneys
Our lawyers are knowledgeable and highly capable. The reason we have such a high rate of successful outcomes is that we:
- Have sharp investigatory skills
- Pay close attention to detail
- Have strong communication skills
- Use well-developed negotiation tactics
- Have a network of experts whose testimony can bolster our case
Contact Our Experienced Wrongful Death Attorneys Now
Our wrongful death lawyers are as compassionate as we are skilled, and, though we can’t relieve your grief, we will dedicate ourselves to bringing you justice and the financial resources you need to help you through this dark period. Contact us now for a consultation about how we can help.