The loss of a family member is an event for which few people are truly ever prepared. While the emotional consequences of such a loss are obvious, many families in Pennsylvania also suffer a significant financial loss as well. Depending on the circumstances of the loss, it may be appropriate to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
These suits are filed when a loss occurs as a result of someone else’s misconduct or negligence. While a claim may follow a criminal trial, a successful wrongful death lawsuit requires a lower standard of proof than a criminal case, meaning that someone found not guilty in criminal court could still be found liable in a related civil case. There are several elements that must be present for a wrongful death claim to be successful, including that a person’s death was due to the negligence or willful actions of another.
The deceased victim’s estate must be represented by the appropriate representative in court. In Pennsylvania, a jury typically determines whether or how much money should be awarded based on a variety of factors related to pecuniary loss (such as loss of income) and punitive damages (in instances of gross negligence, meant to punish the defendant and/or deter similar behavior from others). Any award belongs to the deceased victim’s estate to be distributed under the supervision of the probate court.
Deaths from a variety of different circumstances could be the subject of a wrongful death claim, including during an activity that is supervised, occupational exposures, motor vehicle or airplane accidents, medical malpractice or criminal behavior. In many of these cases, expert testimony is required. As such, many people in Pennsylvania who believe the loss of their loved one was due to negligence or criminal activity seek guidance from an experienced professional to ensure that they fully understand their options and the requirements of such a suit.