You may prove wrongful death in Pittsburgh by meeting the requirements of Pennsylvania’s wrongful death statute, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8301. Pennsylvania law says that the death must be the result of someone else’s:
- Wrongful act
- Unlawful violence
The parties authorized by the law can file a lawsuit to seek monetary compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one. Sometimes, a person dies while a personal injury case is pending. When the personal injury action is for the same injury or event, that case is consolidated with the wrongful death case.
Who Can Recover Damages for Wrongful Death Cases
The same statute, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8301, specifies who is eligible for compensation for the wrongful death of a close relative. Only the spouse, children, or parents of the person who died can pursue wrongful death damages. These legal beneficiaries do not
have to be citizens of or live in Pennsylvania.
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Types of Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
The recoverable losses to the family may include compensation for what the deceased person would have provided for the family if the decedent had lived to a full life expectancy. These damages can cover both the economic contributions of earning an income and providing services to the family, like taking care of the family, house, and yard, as well as providing comfort and companionship.
Wrongful death claim proceeds get distributed among the beneficiaries the same way the decedent’s assets would be if the deceased person died without a will or living trust. The legal beneficiaries will not have to pay creditors of the decedent out of their award.
On top of those damages, the plaintiff (or a personal representative, if no eligible close relative is available to file the lawsuit) can go after these damages on behalf of the estate or the party who paid these costs:
- The reasonable bills to treat the injuries that resulted in the decedent’s death, including hospital, medical, and nursing expenses
- Funeral costs
- Estate administration expenses
The amount of damages recoverable in any case will depend on the facts of the situation. Every wrongful death claim is different. You have to prove the wrongful death factors before you can qualify for damages.
How Much Time You Have to Bring a Wrongful Death Claim
Like every other state, Pennsylvania limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit seeking monetary compensation for the wrongful death of your close relative. This law, called the statute of limitations, says that you must file the legal action within two years of the wrongful death, according to 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5524.
The statute of limitations could play a large role in your case. If you wait too long, you may lose the right to go after compensation for the loss of your loved one.
Time can pass quickly when dealing with a family tragedy. Those two years can fly by before you feel emotionally ready to take legal action, but you do not want to lose the right to hold the person responsible for your loved one’s death accountable for the loss your family suffered.
What to Do After a Wrongful Death Event
After your close relative dies, taking care of your family’s immediate needs takes priority. You might want to consider doing these things to get through the challenging time:
- Deal with the initial crisis, including funeral arrangements, life insurance policies, and cash flow issues.
- Talk with a personal injury or wrongful death legal professional right away. You might need to preserve evidence your lawyer will need to prove that the death was wrongful.
- Stay off of social media. You may notify friends and relatives about the funeral service, but take care to avoid saying anything about the likely defendant or the fatal accident or event. If the at-fault person has liability insurance that might be a source of funds for your claim, the insurer could access your social media accounts. Things posted on social media in a moment of grief may backfire during the claim.
- Let your lawyer handle the defendant and insurance company so that you can focus on rebuilding your life and being there for your family.
These are but a few examples of steps you might wish to take after a loved one dies because of someone else’s wrongful act. You should always do what makes sense in your situation.
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How to Get Help for a Wrongful Death Claim
Berger and Green may be able to help you and your family get through your loss and help you go after justice. We treat our clients with compassion and respect. You can call us today at (412) 661-1400.