When a person dies as the result of someone else’s negligence or wrongful conduct, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help the surviving family members determine if they have grounds for a wrongful death action. The Wieand Law Firm has significant experience litigating wrongful death cases on behalf of aggrieved family members. If your loved was involved in a fatal accident or was a victim of medical malpractice, we are here to help. For a free legal consultation, call 1(800) 481-5206.
What is a “Wrongful Death” Claim?
A “wrongful death” is a death that is caused by negligence or wrongful conduct on the part of another person or business. In Pennsylvania, beneficiaries can bring a claim for damages due to an accidental death caused by someone else’s wrongful act, negligence or unlawful violence. See Wrongful Death Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8301.
Under the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, a decedent’s family members can recover medical, funeral and estate administration expenses they incur, as well as, pecuniary loss to the decedent’s family. 42 Pa. C.S. 8301(b). In Pennsylvania, a wrongful death claim can be made for the benefit of spouse, children or parents of the deceased. However, if no beneficiaries exist, a personal representative of the deceased may bring an action to recover damages. The money recovered is distributed to beneficiaries in the proportion to their proportional intestate share and without liability to creditors of the deceased person under the statutes of this Commonwealth. Sums recovered in wrongful death actions are not subject to state inheritance tax.
Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Action
Under the Wrongful Death Act, recoverable damages include compensation for the economic loss suffered as a result of a death. For example, the Pennsylvania Standard Jury Instructions provide that beneficiaries can be compensated for:
- medical expenses
- hospital expenses
- burial expenses
- funeral expenses
- estate administration expenses
- loss of contributions they would have received between the time of the decedent’s death and the date of the award – this includes contribution for clothing, food, shelter, medical care and education
- the value of support to his/her family between the date of the award and the end of his/her life expectancy
- the monetary value of the services, society and comfort the decedent would have provided to his/her family had the decedent lived.
However, recent case law has potentially expanded the traditional wrongful death damages, listed above, to also include recovery for grief and emotional distress. See Rettger v. UPMC, 2011 Pa. LEXIS 377 (Pa., Feb 16, 2011). In Rettger, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld an a jury award for 2.5 million in wrongful death damages. In doing so, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court’s holding that in the context of a wrongful death action, “services” extend to the profound emotional and psychological loss suffered upon the death of a parent or child.
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of death.
What is a “Survival Action” Claim?
A survival action is a claim for damages that accrued to the deceased during his or her lifetime. Unlike a claim for wrongful death, a survival action is not a new cause of action, but instead, is a continuation of a persons rights. The Survival Act is codified under Pennsylvania Statute 42 Pa. C.S. § 8302.
A survival action is brought by the administrator of the decedent’s estate in order to recover the loss to the estate of the decedent (as opposed to a wrongful death action which goes to statutory beneficiaries). As such, Survival action proceeds are divided among the decedent’s heirs, either through decedent’s will or by intestacy, regardless of pecuniary loss.
What Damages are Recoverable in a Survival Claim?
The damages that can be recovered in a survival action include the decedent’s pain and suffering, loss of gross earning power from the date of injury until death, and probable earnings during his life expectancy minus the probable cost of maintaining himself and wrongful death damages, reducing the balance to its present worth.
In a survival action, the amount recovered becomes a part of the decedent’s estate subject to the claims of creditors. This is different from the wrongful death action where beneficiaries recover personally, free from the claims of the decedent’s creditors.
In Pennsylvania, money recovered in a survival action is subject to state inheritance tax.
Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer in Philadelphia
If you or your family have been deprived of a loved one through someone else’s negligence or wrongful conduct, the Wieand Law Firm can help you get justice and bring closure to a heart-wrenching situation. We have significant experience successfully handling wrongful death and survival action claims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. If you have questions following a fatal accident and would like to discuss filing a claim call attorney Wieand for a free legal consultation at 1(800)481-5206.
The Wieand Law Firm represents clients using a contingency fee arrangement. This means that you will never owe costs or attorneys fees unless he recovers money for you through a settlement or jury award. Don’t be a victim twice, contact us today to get justice for you and your family.
Disclaimer: This website does not constitute legal advice. Laws are subject to change and this information may not be current. Always consult with an attorney if you have questions about a wrongful death or survival claim.