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Wrongful death in PA: Who can file and what can they recover?

On Behalf of | Mar 23, 2020 | Wrongful Death

The loss of a loved one is hard enough emotionally, but the economic impact can make the loss even harder to face on a day-to-day basis. However, when the death appears to be the result of someone’s incompetence, carelessness or cruelty, peace without justice can seem impossible.

Here is a brief overview of who is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the kinds of losses that might be compensated if successful, and how long the deceased’s loved ones can pause to think about whether to go ahead with a suit.

Who can file a wrongful death suit in Pennsylvania?

The spouse, children or parents of the deceased can bring a wrongful death suit. The law clearly states that this is true of these relatives “whether or not citizens or residents of this Commonwealth or elsewhere.”

Of course, some people do not have not a living spouse, children or parents, but they will still have a “personal representative” recognized by the court to sort out the affairs of the deceased. That personal representative can file a wrongful death suit seeking certain kinds of damages.

What kind of damages can you recover?

First, note that survivors cannot seek any compensation the deceased recovered before passing away. That is, the law forbids duplicate damages.

Otherwise, the family can seek the kinds of damages that are comparatively easy to calculate as well as those that are virtually impossible to measure.

Medical bills and other health care costs, as well as funeral and burial costs, may be recovered, as well as the loss of income and other economic support the deceased will now be unable to offer.

Other, incalculable losses, known as “non-economic damages,” can also be sought through a wrongful death suit. This includes the loss of their companionship as a spouse, their love and guidance as a member of the family, and services they would have offered as a caregiver to the children.

Do you have some time to think about it?

It is usually wise to act as soon as possible. It often takes time for families to absorb the meaning of the loss and think about the future. Wrongful death claims are usually complex and evaluating them can take time.

There are two time limits for filing a case. Within six months of the death, the deceased person’s legal representative is the sole person who can file a wrongful death suit.

Then, if the representative has not yet filed a claim, anyone listed at the start of this post, meaning the spouse, any children or the deceased’s parents, can file the suit within two years of the death.

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