When a person dies as the result of someone else’s negligence or wrongful conduct, an experienced Philadelphia wrongful death 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 drunk driving car accident or was a victim of medical malpractice, we are here to help. For a free legal consultation, call the wrongful death lawyers Philadelphia depends on at (215) 666-7777.
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. The PA wrongful death statute can be found at: See Wrongful Death Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8301. A wrongful death attorney Philadelphia relies on can help individuals to purse a wrongful death claim.
According to a wrongful death lawyer Philadelphia depends on, a wrongful act is defined as reckless acts or behavior that disregards the health and safety of others. Examples of wrongful acts could include drunk driving, road racing, or keeping a product on the market after the manufacturer becomes aware of its defects.
Neglect is a common reason for a wrongful death claim when it causes someone else’s death. A nursing home may be liable for neglect if they:
- Fail to notify the physician of an illness or injury requiring medical care and the resident dies
- Do not provide enough staff to monitor residents and a resident suffers a preventable fall with fatal injury
- Fail to monitor and treat a pressure ulcer, and the resident subsequently develops sepsis and passes away
In these situations, a resident’s loved one may be able to file a claim for a wrongful death.
Unlawful Acts of Violence
An unlawful act of violence that results in murder can enable the victim’s survivors to pursue compensation for their losses. One of the most well-known examples of this is the OJ Simpson civil lawsuit. After the criminal trial, the victim’s father filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Simpson and was awarded $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Types of Accidents that Result in a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim is common after death occurs after various types of accidents, such as:
- Medical malpractice
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Worksite accidents
- Accidents on a premises
- Accidents caused by a defective product
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Dog bite attacks
- Dangerous or defective products, including drugs and devices
- Violent acts
- Swimming pool accidents
It’s easy to think of a wrongful death case as a personal injury claim in which the individual is no longer able to bring the case to court themselves, so another party must file the wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. A wrongful death lawyer Philadelphia depends on can seek wrongful death damages regardless of any criminal charges against the defendant.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
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.
What Elements Are Needed for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
To bring a wrongful death lawsuit, four elements are needed. First, the defendant must have owed a duty of care to the deceased, including the duty to take reasonable measures to avoid the loss of their life. Second, you must be able to prove that the defendant breached this duty through their negligent, reckless, or unlawful behavior. Third, the person’s death must have been caused by the defendant’s negligence or intent to cause harm to the deceased. Finally, monetary damages exist for surviving family members as a result of the death.
A personal representative must be appointed to the estate of the deceased. A qualified Philadelphia wrongful death attorney can use their resources and the evidence available to demonstrate that you have a valid wrongful death case.
Statutes of Limitation for Wrongful Death Cases
A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within the statute of limitations for the state in which the person died. However, if a medical examiner or investigator is unable to determine the cause of death until a later date, it may impact the date of the statute of limitations. Due to PA wrongful death statute, it’s recommended to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to preserve your right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact the wrongful death attorneys Philadelphia trusts at the Wieand Law Firm to find out if you can file a claim.
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 (215) 666-7777.
How Wieand Law Can Help You Recover
No amount of money can replace a person whose life was lost from someone else’s negligence. Our legal team’s goal in seeking the highest monetary recovery possible for our clients is to accomplish two objectives:
- Make life more economically easier for our clients who are forced to move forward with their lives without the deceased
- Try to ensure that negligence or recklessness that caused the accident does not reoccur and hurt someone else
Hiring a wrongful death attorney Philadelphia counts on the Wieand Law Firm sends a firm message to the defendants that you mean business. The lawyers at our firm have years of experience in holding defendants liable and obtain the best possible results for our clients. Call 215-666-7777 today to speak directly with an attorney about filing a claim.
Free, No Obligation Case Evaluation
The Philadelphia wrongful death attorneys at the Wieand Law Firm offer a free consultation to review your case and discuss your legal options. At this consultation, we take the time to thoroughly listen to your unique situation and answer your questions. We understand that clients who are considering a wrongful death lawsuit have experienced a great, insurmountable loss. Our goal is to provide aggressive legal representation to hold the responsible party liable for the negligence that resulted in that loss.
Contingency Fee Agreement System
The Wieand Law Firm represents clients using a contingency fee arrangement. This means that you will never owe costs or attorney’s 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.
Preserving Evidence in Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death lawyers Philadelphia depend on can help you preserve evidence to support your claim. Evidence is critical in establishing a burden of proof during a wrongful death lawsuit. This evidence may include information such as medical records, police or accident reports, eyewitness statements, photographs, cell phone records, and Coroner’s reports that support that the claim is valid.
Philadelphia wrongful death attorneys will send an evidence preservation letter to the defendants to request that evidence that they hold is preserved. This evidence may include items such as videos, witness statements, emails, and photographs. Preserving evidence held by the defendants can play an important role in proving your case. Therefore, it’s important to hire a wrongful death attorney Philadelphia relies on as soon as feasible to help ensure important evidence is preserved.
Communication with Responsible Parties
Insurance parties representing defendants in wrongful death cases often desire to quickly end the case by offering a settlement. However, the insurance company’s incentive is to pay you as little as possible, rather than full compensation for your damages. Our Philadelphia wrongful death attorneys will represent you in negotiations to help you get the fair compensation you deserve.
If Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit Goes to Court
Sometimes, the insurance company does not offer an acceptable settlement. If this occurs, we will discuss your option to take the case to court. Wrongful death lawyers Philadelphia trusts at the Wieand Law Firm are experienced trial lawyers. With years of experience representing plaintiff’s in court, our Philadelphia wrongful death attorneys fight vigorously to plead your case.
Our Philadelphia trial lawyers will:
- Manage pre-trial jury selection
- Prepare an opening statement
- Cross-examine witnesses
- Argue motions
Most cases are resolved before trial. However, our Philadelphia wrongful death attorneys are not afraid to take on the defense in the courtroom to get the results our clients deserve.
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 the 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.
Since every case is different, a wrongful death attorney Philadelphia depends on can review your case and determine the damages you may be eligible for.
Can I Pursue Damages for Grief and Emotional Distress?
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.
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 PA wrongful death 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 general, survival actions typically carry greater benefits if the time between the date when the person sustained their injuries, and the date of their death was significant. For example, if a person was in a serious car accident and suffered with their injuries for months before ultimately passing away, a survival action may bring compensation in addition to the wrongful death claim compensation for the case.
In Pennsylvania, money recovered in a survival action is subject to state inheritance tax.
What Settlement Amount Can I Expect in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Each case is unique. Therefore, it is difficult to determine an average settlement for a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania. Various factors can affect a wrongful death settlement, including:
- The type of accident resulting in your loved one’s death
- Your loved one’s medical bills prior to death
- Lost wages suffered between the accident and their passing
- Loss of additional income or benefits you would have received if your loved one had lived to an average life expectance
- Your loved one’s pain and suffering from their fatal injury
- The pain and suffering of you and your family
- Your mental aguish from loss of companionship, protection, and guidance from their passing
- The cost of your loved one’s funeral, cremation, or burial expenses
- Estate administration fees
- The circumstances regarding the defendant’s negligence or wrongful actions that caused your loved one’s death.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death and Survival Actions
Pa.C.S § 5524(2) applies to both wrongful death and survival actions, upholds a two-year statute of limitation for filing a claim. In wrongful death actions, this statute of limitation expires two years from the date of the wrongful death. For survival actions, it’s important to note that the statute expires from the date of the injury, not the date of the date.
Do I have to Go to Court to Recover Compensation?
A Philadelphia wrongful death attorney at the Wieand Law Firm can file, manage and negotiate a wrongful death claim on your behalf. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to reach an agreement with the appropriate insurance carrier. Certain insurance policies may have provisions for wrongful death. Examples of these insurance policies are:
- The defendant’s property insurance
- The defendant’s malpractice insurance
- The defendant’s car insurance policy
- The defendant’s personal injury protection (PIP)
A Philadelphia wrongful death attorney has experience in managing wrongful death claims and can provide the legal counsel you need during this difficult time.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the defendant’s liability is demonstrated through financial compensation for the survivor’s of the deceased. This financial compensation is referred to as “damages.” On the other hand, if a defendant is convicted through criminal prosecution, he is penalized with jail time, probation, or other penalties.
A Philadelphia wrongful death attorney explains that the bar for finding guilt differs between a civil wrongful death lawsuit and criminal prosecutions for homicide. In a criminal case, the defendant must be found to be guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This bar is much higher than the bar to what is needed prove liability in a civil lawsuit. To succeed in a civil wrongful death lawsuit, the defendant’s liability must be proven “by a preponderance of evidence,” which means that it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the death.
Is it Possible for An Act to Result in Both Criminal Charges and a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Yes, it is possible for a prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against a defendant while the survivors also file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.
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Contact the Wrongful Death Attorneys Philadelphia Trusts at the Wieand Law Firm
If you have suffered the unimaginable loss of a family member due to someone else’s negligence, contact the wrongful death lawyers Philadelphia depends on at the Wieand Law Firm. As aggressive trial attorneys, we provide robust representation to family members after a wrongful death to pursue full compensation for the damages you have suffered. Our attorneys have vast experience representing victims in these types of cases and will provide the individualized attention your case deserves.
We understand picking the right personal injury law firm can be a difficult decision. That’s why we offer a free, no-obligation consultation. We want to take the time to get to know you, understand the reason for your claim, evaluate the claim, and answer your questions. It’s important that your law firm is “a good fit” and that you feel comfortable working with the wrongful death attorneys Philadelphia depends on at Wieand Law. Call 215-666-7777 or send us a message via the online form to speak directly with an attorney about your case.
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.
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