What Is Wrongful death ?
Every accident is an emotionally-charged and traumatic event. When an accident results in the death of someone, the entire situation can become an overwhelming catastrophic nightmare. If you have lost someone you love in an accident that wasn’t their fault, Philly Injury Law want you to know we understand that your loss cannot be replaced with any amount of money. We believe that the compensation you deserve should help to ease the pain and the loss you have suffered. Our wrongful death lawyers fight on your behalf to make sure you get the compensation you deserve.
Pennsylvnia law is clear about what constitutes a wrongful death. Any wrongful act, neglect, or unlawful violence that causes death may have a claim for damages. When a wrongful death happens to your family, it is important to have the best personal injury lawyers in Philadelphia. Our attorneys and staff have decades of experience winning wrongful death cases in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Law Explained
The wrongful death law works like other personal injury claims, except that the injured party is the personal representative of the estate of the deceased. Commonly, this is the spouse, children, parents, or relatives of the deceased. In some cases, an attorney or a non-family member may be responsible for the estate and will be responsible for filing suit. If the primary responsible person does not file within six months, any surviving benefactor may file on behalf of all other relatives. Claims must be filed within two years of the date of loss.
What Benefits are Available to Survivors?
Pennsylvania law provides legal right to sue in wrongful death claims for financial losses. Wrongful death cases do not result in convictions. Criminal involuntary manslaughter charges may also be filed by law enforcement in cases where laws were broken. Criminal charges are usually concluded before civil claims for wrongful death.
Pennsylvania allows for both wrongful death compensation and survivor’s benefits compensation. Survivor’s benefits cover many of the same expenses as a typical personal injury claim: medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Survivor’s benefits are paid to the estate while wrongful death settlements are paid to the family members. Awards may not be given for both wrongful death and survivor’s benefits for the same reason, such as pain and suffering.
Families who have lost a loved one due to a not-at-fault accident can be entitled to:
Funeral and burial expenses
Hospital and medical expenses
Estate administration expenses
Lost wages and benefits, including amounts the deceased reasonably would have been expected to contribute to his or her family's support if he or she had lived
Compensation for the loss of household services, society, and comfort provided by the deceased, including provision of both physical comforts and services and moral guidance, comfort, and support, and
Compensation for pain and suffering.
If the deceased does not have a spouse, children, parents, or other relatives, the courts will only provide compensation for funeral expenses, hospital and medical expenses, and estate administration expenses.
Philly Injury Law will handle both wrongful death and survivor’s benefit settlements, making sure that your family is protected. We will help make the decision between wrongful death and survivor’s benefits, ensuring your family is not saddled with a huge debt and left with financial struggles from a wrongful death that was not your fault.
Car Accidents and Wrongful Death
The good news is that car accident deaths are falling in Pennsylvania. The 1,137 motor vehicle deaths in 2017 was the lowest recorded number of fatalities in 90 years. The number of deaths could be reduced drastically if fewer people drove too fast, under the influence, or while distracted. Economic losses in Pennsylvania alone resulting from car accident deaths exceeded $8 million in 2017.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) keeps statistics on the number of crashes each year, the causes, and other factors. During 2017, PennDOT identified almost 600 fatalities related to alcohol and speeding. Those two causes are the largest segment of car accident deaths each year in Pennsylvania. Another 150 pedestrians, 185 motorcyclists, and 21 bicyclists were also killed by cars that year.
The impact of distracted driving has fueled a national backlash against drivers who carelessly and negligently operate vehicles while texting, putting on makeup, and many other actions that take the driver’s eyes off the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said 3,166 people died nationally as a result of distracted driving during 2017.
Alcohol and Drugs
Among the most common causes of a wrongful death are drivers who are intoxicated while driving. In Pennsylvania, drunk driving arrests climbed in 2017, while deaths decreased slightly. Many states are reducing restrictions on personal consumption of marijuana, and in some states, incidents of wrongful death due to drivers being high on marijuana are becoming more common. The opiate epidemic has been causing problems for many years and is only starting to get a lot of attention from regulators, but drivers using prescription medication -legally or illegally- cause many accidents that result in the death of the victim.
Alcohol continues to be a national problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control, alcohol was a factor in 28 percent of all people killed in car accidents in 2016. That same year, 17 percent of children 14 and younger that died in an accident that was alcohol-related.
In Pennsylvania, 44 people were killed by drunk drivers causing a crash. Of these, 17 were pedestrians struck and killed by drunk drivers. Male drivers accounted for three out of four drunk driving crashes across all age ranges.
Impaired Driving-Related Crashes
The CDC conducted a self-report study in 2016 that indicates as many as 111 million people drive after using alcohol or drugs each year. Prescription and illicit drug use is an increasing factor in car crashes, though it is not clear that more drivers are using. In years past, police rarely looked beyond alcohol as a cause when filing accident reports. An increased awareness of drug use and the role it plays in car accidents may also be responsible for an increasing number of reported crashes.
The CDC estimates that about 13 percent of drivers after sunset have marijuana in their system. Marijuana can affect drivers in many ways, but commonly, it causes delayed reaction time, impaired judgement, and problems with depth perception and decision making. Many states have partially decriminalized marijuana, leading to more use and an increase in reporting by police.
Opioid use has increased dramatically in the last several decades. Opioids are prescription pain relievers like oxycodone. Opioids can cause poor hand-eye coordination, difficulty thinking or understanding a situation, and delayed reaction times that can cause fatal car accidents. A study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that drivers using opioids were 72 times more likely to cause an accident than alcohol impaired drivers.
Distracted Driving-Related Crashes
The technology at our disposal these days is unlike anything in the past. But the technology we have also makes it more likely we will be distracted while driving. The NHTSA found that more than 3,000 car accident deaths in 2017 were related to distracted driving. Even the amazing infotainment systems our cars have today can cause distraction, putting drivers in a dangerous situation.
Work-Related Wrongful Deaths
Workers’ Compensation provides some benefits in the event a worker is killed, but the amount is capped. Typically, a wrongful death suit can be difficult to bring in a work related accident, but in some instances, it is appropriate. If it can be demonstrated that gross negligence was a factor, such as someone failing to perform a required service causing an equipment failure, it might be in the best interest of the family to pursue a wrongful death suit. Our wrongful death and workers’ compensation attorneys can discuss with your family how the two systems provide benefits and what the best course of action you have might be.
Slip, Trip, and Fall
It might be surprising to learn that slip, trip, and fall accidents are the leading cause of accidental death for people over the age of 65. Many of these accidents are preventable. Our slip and fall lawyers handle many of these cases every year. Often, improperly maintained walkways, spills that are not cleaned up, and even ice and snow that are not cleared can cause a slip and fall accident that might be fatal.
The numbers are stark. The CDC identifies that about 17,000 people per year die due to slip and fall accidents. Many of these are from less than six feet.
How Our Injury Lawyers Can Help
Accidents that result in a wrongful death are an all too common claim. Our attorneys handle more accident-related wrongful death claims than we would like. When a drunk or distracted driver causes a crash that kills someone, the loss is tremendous. Most work-related and slip and fall accidents can be prevented in the first place. Our accident lawyers will make sure that the responsible person is held fully accountable for the accident. Money won’t bring your loved one back, but it will help to ease the loss by providing the financial help your family will need. Philly Injury Law will see to it that you get every penny possible.
Wrongful Death Cases
A wrongful death claim is one that is brought against a defendant who had caused the death of someone else. This can be done through intentional action of some kind or through negligence.
These claims will allow the estate or those who were close to the deceased person to file a lawsuit against whatever party is liable legally for the death. While each state does have their own wrongful death laws, these lawsuits can often be handled by the legal representation for the family of the deceased.
If someone you love has been wrongfully murdered or died due to the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to filing a wrongful death claim. These claims can be challenging though and there are many parts that come into play. If you are already dealing with the emotions of losing your loved one, there is an added challenge when trying to keep it all organized.
Rather than handling the wrongful death claim on your own, consider hiring a wrongful death attorney in Philadelphia to help you handle everything. From gathering the evidence to helping with the negotiations, a wrongful death lawyer can handle all the parts for you, ensuring you get the settlement and compensation you deserve.
When Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is one that will arise after any situation in which the victim, if they had not died, would have had a valid claim for personal injury. However, since the individual is no longer alive to handle the personal injury case because their injuries were too severe, it is possible for the estate of the individual, usually with the help of their lawyer, to file a wrongful death claim instead. There are several situations that can lead to these claims including:
The Victim is Intentionally Killed
This is when the defendant purposely killed the other party. Whether it was premeditated or not, this ended up costing the life of the victim. If some action intentionally killed the other person, it can be liable to a wrongful death claim.
In some cases, the victim may die due to medical malpractice. If a doctor who is responsible for diagnosing a condition or taking care of the patient and doesn’t do this job properly even though they should have, or the doctor is careless in the care they provide, and this cases the patient to die, then the family can do a wrongful death claim against the doctor and the hospital.
Car Accidents Due to Negligence
If the victim does end up dying because of injuries from a car accident, it is possible to bring up a wrongful death claim against the other party. There needs to be proof that negligence on the part of the other driver was present.
These are just some of the most common personal injury cases that your lawyer may be able to work with you when it comes to wrongful death claims. These claims can stem from any kind of personal injury situation. One exception to this is work injuries that may result in death. These will usually not rely on wrongful death because they are handled through the worker’s compensation system instead.
Four Elements That Occur In a Wrongful Death Case
When it comes to a wrongful death case, there are four key elements to work with. Members who are surviving their loved ones who submit a claim or file a lawsuit need to prove all four elements to win a case for financial recompense. These four elements include:
The surviving family members, or their legal team, needs to prove that the death of a loved one was caused, at least in part, by the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of the defending party. Our team can step in and do all the necessary research to help prove this factor.
Breach of duty:
To have a successful wrongful death case, your team needs to prove that the defendant owed some kind of duty to the victim who is deceased.
For example, medical providers have a duty to keep their patient’s healthy and a motorist has a duty to drive safely and follow traffic laws. The plaintiff needs to be able to establish how this duty existed and that the duty was breached through various negligent actions.
The plaintiff needs to also prove how the negligence for the defendant was what caused the death of the loved one. Our wrongful death attorneys can help find evidence that this happened.
The death of the victim needs to generate quantifiable damages. This would include things like loss of income and potential income, loss of protection, loss of inheritance, funeral and burial costs, medical expenses, and hospitalization.
It is important to prove all four points of this in court to complete your wrongful death lawsuit. This will require strong evidence that is convincing. You may also need to have expert witness testimony to help you get started. A skilled attorney that specializes in these types of cases can make it easier as well. Contact our team of qualified wrongful death lawyers in Philadelphia to help you with your wrongful death case.
What Needs to Be Proven?
To be able to hold any defendant liable for this kind of claim, the plaintiff of this claim along with their lawyer, usually through the estate of the person who passed, need to meet the same burden of proof that any victim would meet if they were still alive and needed to do a personal injury case.
For example, if we are working with negligence, this means that the estate of the deceased would need to show the defendant owed the victim some duty of care (such as following the rules of the road during a car accident), that the defendant did not meet this duty, and that because of failing to meet this duty, the death occurred. The plaintiff will also need to show that the death caused the damages they want to cover, such as money for funeral costs.
Burden of Proof
In most cases, a wrongful death lawsuit will not be seen as a criminal case, but rather a civil action. This means that the burden of proof is often lower. To be successful with this, the lawsuit must be won on the preponderance of evidence, rather than the individual being guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If family members which to pursue a civil action for this kind of case, there are different steps that need to happen including developing the right strategy, investigating the claim that is brought forward, talking with experts, meeting the different witnesses, and researching tort law. There are often lots of demands to handle, mediation, and even settlement. If both sides can’t reach an agreement, then a lawsuit can be filed.
In these cases, a large quantity of evidence is not required. Rather, the evidence needs to be high-quality and credible. This can be difficult to work with on your own. Working with an experienced attorney is important because of all the complications that come with a wrongful death case. Wrongful death attorneys can step in and make sure that you get everything handled and can get the compensation necessary after losing a loved one to a wrongful death case.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim?
It is always a good idea to talk with a wrongful death attorney early on to discuss some of your options with a wrongful death claim. These claims are often filed not by individuals, but by a representative for the estate of the person who passed.
It is done on behalf of the survivors who had some kind of relationship with the deceased. Those who can be survivors and benefit from this kind of claim will vary based on the state.
In every state, a spouse is able to bring up this claim if their spouse is the victim. Parents of a minor child can do this claim too if it was one of their children who passed. A minor child can collect compensation if one of their parents die. These are areas where all states seem to agree.
However, there are some places where the states will start to disagree. They may disagree about whether an adult child can sue over the wrongful death of one or both parents, whether grown siblings can sue for this kind of death, or even if grandparents, uncles, aunts, or cousins can sue. A good thing to consider is how close the relationship is, the easier it is to file one of these claims. Distant relatives often have no legal recourse.
There are some states that allow the romantic partner of the person who died, even if they were not married, is able to bring in a wrongful death claim. In other states, anyone who can show financial dependence on the deceased can file a claim as well. If you are uncertain about whether you can file a claim or not, it is a good idea to discuss the option with your wrongful death lawyer ahead of time.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Attorneys who specialize in wrongful death claims can handle many different types of cases along the way. There are different things that will cause a wrongful death claim including:
- Assisted living and nursing home abuse and neglect.
- Supervised activities that may include things like field trips, adult care,
- and day care.
- Criminal actions that result in death including stabbings, shootings, and blatant violence.
- Premises accidents.
- Occupational hazards and exposures.
- Product defects
- Birth defects
- Medical malpractice that resulted in death.
- Motorcycle, commercial truck, and automobile accidents
Damages for Wrongful Death
There are different types of damages that the estate of the deceased can claim during their wrongful death claim. With the help of your wrongful death lawyer in Philadelphia, you may be able to receive compensation for:
- The pain and suffering of the deceased before they died. This is often called the survival claim.
- Costs for funerals and burial
- The costs for medical treatment for the deceased victim that they incurred due to any injuries before death.
- The loss of expected income from the deceased person if they had lived.
- The loss of any inheritance that goes away because of the death.
- The value of any services that the person who died would have provided.
- The loss of consortium
- The loss of companionship and love from that person.
- The loss of nurturing, guidance, and care that the victim would have provided to their family members.
The amount that you would be able to get in compensation for any of these factors, and even which factors you can count for compensation will depend on the individual situation and what happened before the individual died.
This is why you should consider working with a lawyer who understands these wrongful death claims. They can walk you through the process, answer your questions, and find the necessary evidence to bolster your case and get you the compensation that you deserve.
Do not pursue a wrongful death claim by yourself.
After losing a loved one, it is easy to feel a rush of emotions. You are upset that you no longer have that loved one around and that you now have high bills to pay for and a potential loss of income. Handling a wrongful death case may be the right course of action, but doing it on your own can be a disastrous mistake. There are a lot of components that need to come into play and having someone on your side who understands the law and how these cases work can ensure you get the settlement you deserve.
Our team can provide you with all of the help you need in a wrongful death claim. Our wrongful death attorneys can provide you with help gathering evidence, finding expert testimony, and giving you the help you need during all of your case. Contact us today to see how our personal injury and wrongful death lawyers can help you. We Win or It’s Free!