If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior, you may be wondering whether you (as a family member) could sue for wrongful death. If you are the deceased’s spouse, child, or parent, the answer is yes. You have suffered a great loss, and you have every right to sue for compensation. Keep reading for more information about what a wrongful death lawsuit entails.
Understanding What Goes into a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
By filing a wrongful death suit, you are saying that your loved one would still be alive if not for someone else’s action or inaction. Wrongful death cases can be brought for many causes of death, such as:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Gas explosions
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Porch or balcony collapses
Whatever caused your loved one’s untimely death, you may be entitled to compensation. You may want to discuss your case with a lawyer before filing your lawsuit. They can help you figure out who is liable for your loved one’s death and what damages you may be able to collect.
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Determining Whether You Can Sue for Wrongful Death
Wrongful death suits are filed in pursuit of compensatory damages, which fall into two main categories. These categories are discussed below.
Economic Damages You Could Recover
Economic damages compensate you for the money you spent or lost due to your loved one’s death. Examples of economic damages include:
- Lost wages. If your loved one was employed, you may be entitled to the wages they would have earned during their accident-related convalescence and/or throughout the duration of their estimated working life.
- Medical bills. If your loved one survived for a period of time after the accident, they may have seen a doctor or gone to the hospital for treatment. You can ask for compensation for these expenses.
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Noneconomic Damages You Could Recover
Noneconomic damages compensate you for the physical or emotional toll that the accident had on you or your loved one. Examples of noneconomic damages include:
- Pain and suffering. Your loved one suffered physical or mental distress prior to their death. This distress may have been caused by the accident itself (e.g., flashbacks or nightmares related to the event) or by their injuries (e.g., a back injury).
- Loss of companionship. Your loved one’s passing has robbed you of all the years you expected to spend together.
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You Should Understand the Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania
A statute of limitations defines how long a person has to file a lawsuit. The length of these timelines can vary by state, by crime, and even by who you intend to sue. Pennsylvania’s 42 Pa. CSA § 5524 gives you two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
One final note regarding compensation—if your loved one received any damages before passing away, you are not eligible to sue for those damages again.
What a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Involves
Filing a lawsuit and seeing it through to the end can be a long, arduous process. But you do not have to take on this burden alone. Here are just some of the ways that a lawyer can help you with your case.
Building a Case
Your main objective is to prove that the party you are suing is responsible for your loved one’s death. A lawyer can inform you about what kind of evidence you should gather, including:
- Eyewitness statements
- Police records and reports
- Medical records
- Maintenance records
- Surveillance video
The evidence we can—or must—collect depends on the specifics of your case. For example, according to 231 Pa. CSA § 1042.3, expert witness testimony (e.g., a qualified physician) is required in medical malpractice suits.
Communicating with Responsible Parties
The liable party—or their insurance company—may want to end the case quickly by offering you a settlement. But the insurance company could be more interested in paying you as little as possible than in paying you a fair amount. We will represent you at meetings with the insurance company and negotiate for what you deserve.
Presenting Your Case in Court
If the insurance company does not offer you a satisfactory settlement, we can take the case to court. Just like we represented you at pretrial negotiations, we will represent you in the courtroom. This representation may involve giving oral arguments, submitting evidence, and questioning witnesses.
Whether a family member can sue for wrongful death is a question with a simple answer. But deciding whether to file a lawsuit—to say nothing of going through the process—can be much more difficult.
If you decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit, call the office of Berger and Green at (412) 661-1400 for your free consultation. We handle wrongful death cases in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas.
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