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, the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky 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.
The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky 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. The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky will see to it that you get every penny possible.