Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania?
When a family loses a member due to somebody else’s negligence, they may have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim against those responsible for their loved one’s passing. The filing of a wrongful death lawsuit is subject to various rules and requirements. It is important to know who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania and what steps that party needs to take to pursue the claim.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit involves a legal claim that arises when a person’s death is the fault of another party. Wrongful death claims typically arise from the same circumstances that would lead to a personal injury lawsuit, such as a car accident, a defective product, or medical malpractice. A wrongful death claim can also be filed in cases of homicide, although a claim does not require an at-fault party to have committed a crime.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania?
Under Pennsylvania’s wrongful death statute, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file the wrongful death claim. The personal representative is the executor named in the decedent’s will or the administrator appointed to manage the estate. If no estate is opened for a decedent, the court can appoint someone to bring the wrongful death claim. In many cases, a close relative such as a spouse, child, parent, or sibling will be named or appointed to serve as the personal representative.
However, if the personal representative fails to file a wrongful death suit within six months of the decedent’s passing, then any beneficiary or heir of the decedent may file the suit on behalf of all eligible beneficiaries.
What Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Although the personal representative of a decedent’s estate is normally responsible for pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit, they do so on behalf of the surviving family members eligible to recover compensation in the case. These eligible beneficiaries may include:
- A surviving spouse
- Surviving children (including legally adopted children)
- Surviving parents
The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to ensure that the decedent’s estate and their surviving beneficiaries are compensated for the losses that are incurred due to the decedent’s passing. Examples of losses that may be recovered in a wrongful death action include:
- Medical expenses incurred to treat the decedent’s final injury or illness
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Costs of estate administration
- Lost income, including both the wages that the decedent lost out on between their injury/onset of illness and their death, as well as future income that the decedent would have been expected to contribute to the family or household
- The value of the household services performed by the decedent, such as maintenance, home repair, or child rearing
- Loss of the decedent’s companionship, comfort, society, and guidance
Medical expenses, funeral/burial expenses, and estate administration expenses can be recovered by a personal representative even if a decedent left no surviving eligible beneficiaries. Financial recovery for loss of a decedent’s future financial contributions, services to the household, and companionship/comfort/guidance will be apportioned among eligible beneficiaries according to state intestacy laws, which govern how property passes without a will.
Contact a Pittsburgh Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Wrongful Death Case in Pennsylvania
Have you lost a loved one in a wrongful death in Pennsylvania? Don’t let the bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Berger Lagnese & Paul, LLC represent clients in Butler, Cranberry Township, Erie, Greensburg, and throughout Pennsylvania. Call (412) 471-4300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 310 Grant St. #720, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.