Defining Wrongful Death in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law considers wrongful deaths to be caused by someone else’s “wrongful act or neglect, unlawful violence, or negligence.” Examples can include:
You can file a claim against the negligent party if your loved one wrongfully died. Eligibility to file and receive compensation for a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania depends on how you relate to the decedent.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania can be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. This is either the executor of the decedent’s will or administrator of the estate.
An executor is explicitly named in the decedent’s will. The court appoints someone else if the decedent’s will does not have a designated executor. The person who is appointed to the role is called an administrator.
If the personal representative does not file a claim within six months, anyone entitled to compensation may file a wrongful death claim.
What if the Personal Representative Can’t Fulfill Their Duties?
A personal representative may choose to decline the role. From there, the court can appoint someone else to represent the decedent’s estate.
Sometimes, the personal representative might be unfit to bear the role’s responsibilities. Perhaps you feel they are too incompetent, corrupt, or otherwise dangerous for the position. As a beneficiary, you have the right to sue the personal representative and argue for their removal from the case. Your lawyer can assist in proving why the unfit individual should not have authority over the estate.
Who Is Entitled to Compensation?
A beneficiary can receive compensation for a wrongful death claim. A decedent’s spouse, children, and parents all qualify as beneficiaries.
This means that siblings, grandparents, or most long-term partners cannot receive compensation for a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania. The claim cannot be made if a decedent does not have a living spouse, child, or parent.
How to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania
Taking legal action on top of grieving might seem like too much. A lawyer who understands Pennsylvania law inside and out can help ease the burden. They will answer your questions, provide resources, and assist with the claims process.
If you pursue a wrongful death claim, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages.
Possible Damages in a Wrongful Death Case
Damages include the financial, physical, and emotional consequences of wrongful death. Compensation for damages can cover both past and future losses.
Possible damages for a wrongful death case include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of decedent’s expected future income
- Pain and suffering damages
- Related medical expenses
- Loss of consortium from a spouse
- Loss of love, comfort, or services provided by the decedent
You may recover compensation for these and more when a PA wrongful death claim is filed. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence and strengthen your case.
You Have Limited Time to File a Claim
A statute of limitations is a time limit on filing a claim after an accident. The Pennsylvania statute of limitations allows up to two years after the individual’s death to file a wrongful death claim, with some limited exceptions. This time can go by much faster than you might expect, so do not hesitate to act.
How Long Does it Take to Resolve a Wrongful Death Claim?
Every case is different, but most wrongful death claims take time to be resolved. It is crucial to find an attorney who is knowledgeable and transparent about the process.
You deserve compensation for all your damages, but certain damages can be hard to place a numerical value on. Determining compensation requires the consideration of many factors, such as the decedent’s health and age.
It is impossible to calculate the extent of your grief. No amount of money can bring your loved one back. However, total compensation can help ease the burdens you can control.
Insurance companies may take advantage of your grief and make a quick settlement offer soon after the death. The amount they propose might sound appealing. However, it may be insultingly low compared to the value you actually deserve. A lawyer can be your best advocate. They will closely examine your case and lead you toward a desirable outcome.