Understanding Wrongful Death and Survival Claims

The loss of a loved one due to another’s negligence can have devastating consequences for a family. Under Pennsylvania law, two separate claims can be filed to recover damages caused by this loss. These claims are a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Claim. The differences between a Wrongful Death and a Survival Claim are the damages each claim seeks to compensate. Both claims are generally asserted by the deceased loved one’s estate – the decedent’s estate — through a personal representative approved by the Court.

Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Claim

In a Wrongful Death claim, the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased may bring a claim to recover damages sustained by them as a result of the decedent’s death.

The damages recoverable in a Wrongful Death action include:

  1. medical expenses, funeral expenses, burial expenses, estate administration expenses;
  2. an amount that will fairly and adequately compensate the family of the decedent (wife, children, parents, etc.) for their loss of any contributions they would have received between the time of the death of the decedent and today. such as: food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, gifts, entertainment;
  3. money value of contribution to support of family / compensation to family: society, comfort, services; and
  4. compensation to children for loss of services decedent would have provided, such as guidance, moral upbringing, etc.

Pennsylvania Survival Claim

In a Survival claim, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is substituted for the decedent. The recovery obtained depends on the cause of action the decedent possessed at the time of his or her death. Simply put, a Survival Action is a statutory right of the personal representative of the decedent’s estate to bring, or continue, those claim that the decedent had during his or her lifetime.

Under the Pennsylvania survivor statute, any causes of action or proceedings survive the death of the Decedent. For a negligence claim that arose during the decedent’s lifetime, a decedent’s estate may recover damages for pain and suffering, loss of gross earning power from the date of the injury until death, and loss of earning power, less personal maintenance expenses form the time of the death through decedent’s estimated working life span.

Typically, both the survival claim and wrongful death claim arise as a result of the negligent conduct of a third party, for instance as a result of an automobile accident, medical malpractice, or a fatal work place injury.

Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Attorney

The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for negligence is two years. Therefore, any claim for wrongful death and survival must be settled or a suit filed within two years of the date of the alleged negligent conduct. In some instances, this two year period may be extended, for instance when the negligent conduct is concealed or not immediately discoverable.

Finally, if any claim for wrongful death or survival is settled prior to a jury’s verdict on the claims, court approval of the settlement must be obtained.

It is best to consult with qualified and experienced wrongful death and survival attorneys as soon as you realize you may have a wrongful death or survival claim as a result of the loss of a loved one. The attorney’s at Berger and Green will navigate you through the complexities of opening an estate for your loved one, investigating the claim, seeking a fair and just resolution of the claims through settlement or trial, and where necessary, seeking the Court’s approval of any settlement of the claim.

Contact Us

If you need to speak with one of our experienced Pittsburgh personal injury lawyers, workers’ compensation attorneys or Social Security Disability lawyers, we are pleased to offer a free consultation. For assistance, call (412) 661-1400 or contact us by e-mail.