Negligence leading to death is called wrongful death under Pennsylvania law.
Any accident, from a car crash to medical malpractice, can be traumatic and upsetting. When that incident involves a death, the impact is devastating for the victim’s family.
In many of these cases, the accident or mistake could have been avoided. You can file a claim even if the state pursues a criminal case.
What is the Legal Definition of Wrongful Death ?
A wrongful death, as defined by the Pennsylvania General Statutes, is caused by neglect, a wrongful act, or unlawful violence or negligent disregard of another person.
Generally, the kinds of actions that lead to wrongful death are the same actions that could be pursued under a personal injury claim. However, since the victim is deceased, the family brings forward this personal injury suit instead.
What Are the Common Causes of Wrongful Death ?
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) identifies deaths by unintentional injury as the fourth-biggest killer in the U.S., with around 160,000 deaths every year. They also identify the most common causes of wrongful death as:
These include deaths in collisions, deaths due to faults in the vehicle, and later deaths due to injuries sustained in an accident.
Pedestrian and bicycle accidents:
Most commonly caused by a vehicle striking the cyclist or pedestrian.
Premises liability accidents:
The most common examples of these are slip-and-fall accidents.
This area of personal injury law can cover a wide range of scenarios, from birth injury deaths to misdiagnosis to medication errors.
While many of these types of incidents are covered by workers’ compensation laws, in some circumstances, there may be a legitimate claim for wrongful death.
Drowning and boating accidents: While Pennsylvania has a very low incidence of boating accidents, drowning is more common than many think, especially in children under the age of 15.
Filing a Claim
Pursuing a claim for wrongful death is much the same as other personal injury claims. The claim can be filed by someone representing the deceased’s estate and acting on behalf of their beneficiaries (usually spouse and family). With rare exceptions, the statute of limitations on these cases is two years from the date of death. The damages normally awarded include:
- Costs of funeral and burial or cremation.
- Medical bills.
- Costs for administering the estate.
- Lost wages.
- Compensation for loss of companionship and other household, family, or societal services.
What is Pain and suffering compensation ?
Depending on the circumstances of the death, your Philadelphia personal injury attorney can seek to prove that the other party acted negligently or irresponsibly and that their actions caused the death of the victim. In some circumstances, the defendant admits liability, and it may be a case of your lawyer negotiating a fair and just settlement with the defendant’s insurance company.
In other cases, such as medical malpractice, proving negligence can be more difficult and often involves using testimony from one or more medical experts. You may also need the testimony of independent witnesses, and this takes time and resources.
If the statute of limitations has passed, you may still be able to file a claim under the rule of discovery.
This rule applies if you later discover that your loved one’s death was a result of negligence, which may not always be apparent at the time of their death.
You must prove reasonable steps taken to seek out the initial cause of death, and this may require assembling medical records, witness statements, and police reports.
How Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim ?
At The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky, we understand how upsetting losing a loved one can be. The economic and emotional toll is devastating, and you and your loved one deserve justice for their wrongful death.
We aim to provide you with the very best Philadelphia accident lawyer to build a strong case and prove negligence or blame. You never have to pay any upfront fees because we work on a strict no-win, no-fee basis. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation at (215) 735-4800.