Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?
May 24, 2019
Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania
When a loved one dies as a result of the actions of another, it is difficult for many people to process. In addition to the grief that comes with mourning the death of the loved one, family members must also handle the funeral arrangements and costs that come along with it. This task can be both mentally and financially overwhelming, especially if the death was unexpected and there were no funds saved to pay for the funeral. In cases where deaths result because of the wrongful actions of another, Pennsylvania law allows certain individuals to bring what is known as a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party to enable them to pay the fees associated with the death. Below, we explain what a wrongful death is, who may file a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania, and what damages are available if the lawsuit is successful.
What is a Wrongful Death in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the term “wrongful death” is defined by 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8301. This statute states that a wrongful death is a “death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another[.]” In essence, a wrongful death is any death that results due to the intentional or unintentional actions of another.
If someone suffers a wrongful death in Pennsylvania, the state legislature, through 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8301, has provided a means by which to hold the responsible party civilly liable for the death. The statute creates what is known as a wrongful death cause of action, or, stated differently, a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits, according to Pennsylvania law, allow for the recovery of certain damages so long as the person bringing the lawsuit can prove that the death resulted because the responsible party committed a tort against the deceased person. Accordingly, to prevail in a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania, one has to prove the elements of a specific personal injury claim that is cognizable under Pennsylvania law.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?
The people who may file a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of another in Pennsylvania depends on whether or not the deceased person had a valid will at the time of death. If so, the only person that may file a wrongful death lawsuit for the deceased person’s death is the person that is named executor/executrix of the decedent’s estate in the will. If, however, the person died intestate – without a will – then the person who is appointed personal representative of the decedent’s estate is the person who may file a wrongful death lawsuit. A personal representative may be anyone who volunteers to administer the decedent’s estate and petitions the court for this privilege.
If, however, six months elapsed from the date of the decedent’s death until the present and the executor/executrix or the personal representative has failed to file a wrongful death lawsuit, then Pennsylvania law allows any beneficiary of the decedent to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This is because the purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate all of the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate. Consequently, if a beneficiary files the wrongful death lawsuit after the above-referenced six-month time period expires, that beneficiary must file the lawsuit on behalf of all of the decedent’s beneficiaries, not just himself or herself.
Available Damages in a Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If a wrongful death lawsuit is successful in Pennsylvania, then the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate may be entitled to the following types of monetary damages:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Estate administration expenses
- Medical bills accrued before the decedent’s death
- Lost wages and benefits, including loss of contribution
- Compensation for loss of companionship and services
- Pain and suffering
Contact a Pittsburgh Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Wrongful Death Case in Pennsylvania
Was one or more of your loved ones killed because of the wrongful actions of another in Pennsylvania? Don’t let the medical and funeral bills pile up while you wait for the responsible 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 Goodrich & Geist, P.C. represent clients whose loved ones have died as a result of the wrongful actions of another in Pittsburgh, and throughout Western Pennsylvania counties. Call (412) 766-1455 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 3634 California Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
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.