Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be an emotionally and financially painful experience. Your first thought after suffering such a tragedy is likely not that of legal recourse. However, it is during this difficult time that a wrongful death lawsuit can provide some measure of justice and financial security for those left behind.
How Does Pennsylvania Define Wrongful Death?
In Pennsylvania, any death that occurs due to the negligence or unlawful act of another is considered wrongful. These acts can involve accidents, such as car crashes, and willful harm, such as assault, manslaughter, or murder. In these instances, the deceased’s surviving family members are entitled to pursue compensation for damages arising from the death of the person or persons responsible via a wrongful death lawsuit. You can learn more about wrongful death in Pennsylvania by contacting a wrongful death attorney.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Wrongful Deaths in Philadelphia?
In Pennsylvania, wrongful death lawsuits can arise from a wide range of circumstances, each rooted in the tragic loss of a loved one due to another party’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions. Some of the most common types of wrongful death lawsuits in Pennsylvania include:
Motor Vehicle Accidents
A report published by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation shows that almost 1,180 people died in motor vehicle accidents statewide in 2022. These tragedies are caused by a variety of negligent driving behaviors, such as speeding, tailgating, road rage, illegal driving maneuvers, and other traffic violations. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help surviving family members avoid overwhelming financial burdens during their time of loss by filing a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf.
According to research studies conducted by Johns Hopkins, medical errors are the third leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. Surviving relatives are entitled to seek legal redress if their loved one’s death was the result of medical negligence. Common examples of medical negligence include failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, improper treatment, inadequate aftercare, surgical errors, birth injuries, and medication errors.
Workplace accidents occur far too often, especially among those in high-risk occupations like construction, where workplace deaths are a known potential hazard. Employers are liable for providing their workers with reasonably safe working conditions. Regrettably, when they fail to uphold this duty and negligence results in a fatal accident, surviving relatives are able to seek financial restitution through a wrongful death claim.
Any party involved in the manufacturing or retail of a faulty product, be it the manufacturer, designer, seller, or distributor, can be held liable if the product’s flaws contribute to the death of a consumer. In these cases, a wrongful death suit offers victims a way to pursue damages and justice by holding the party or parties responsible for the faulty product liable. Additionally, successful wrongful death claims related to defective products serve the added benefit of helping to improve safety standards which lessens the likelihood of additional deaths.
Other scenarios from which a wrongful death suit can stem include:
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Airplane crashes
- Train derailments
- Slip-and-fall accidents
- Nursing home neglect or abuse
- Fires and explosions
Who is Eligible to File a Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Pennsylvania law grants the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit to specific surviving family members. Based on the specifics of a case, a wrongful death suit could potentially be filed by:
- The deceased’s spouse: The victim’s surviving spouse has the primary right to bring a wrongful death suit.
- The deceased’s children: If no surviving spouse exists, the victim’s children may then file a wrongful death claim.
- The deceased’s parents: If no surviving spouse or child exists, the victim’s parents will be able to file.
- Personal Representative of the Deceased’s Estate: If, within six months of the victim’s passing, none of the aforementioned parties initiate a claim, the personal representative of the victim’s estate, also known as an executor, can file on behalf of their next of kin.
It is important to understand that Pennsylvania law is very specific as to the hierarchy of eligible persons and the time by which they must file a claim. Working with an experienced Philadelphia wrongful death attorney is vital to understanding your rights and ensuring you are in compliance with the law when pursuing a Pennsylvania wrongful death lawsuit.
The Value of Preserving Evidence
When faced with the overwhelming prospect of coping with a wrongful death and filing a lawsuit, taking immediate action to ensure that evidence is preserved is key. It is imperative that you partner with a skilled and reputable wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Building a compelling case with a high chance of success requires the experience and knowledge of a seasoned Philadelphia wrongful death attorney who has the resources to handle your case properly.
Evidence of a wrongful death can take many forms, such as police reports, pictures of the accident scene, witness testimony, medical records, and more. It is important to collect and index this evidence as quickly as possible after the accident; otherwise, it could be destroyed, forgotten, or lost to time. Expert witnesses can also play a critical role in explaining how medical negligence, a product malfunction, or a safety violation caused your loved one’s death.
What Compensation is Available for a Wrongful Death in Philadelphia?
A Philadelphia wrongful death claim makes it possible for beneficiaries to pursue financial recovery for the numerous economic and non-economic damages arising from the loss of their loved one. Economic damages are tangible, monetary losses like funerary costs, future earnings, loss of inheritance, medical bills incurred prior to the victim’s death, and the value of lost companionship and services. Conversely, non-economic damages encompass intangible, non-monetary losses like loss of consortium and grief.
If you lost a loved one in an accident caused by negligence or malice, you need to work with an experienced Philadelphia wrongful death attorney in order to secure the financial compensation you and your family need and deserve. A skilled lawyer will make sure you get the full amount of compensation you are entitled to, so you can focus on healing and moving forward as a family.