Many people in Pennsylvania can count themselves among those who have received phone calls informing them that a loved one has been involved in a fatal motor vehicle collision. In some cases, death comes instantly due to massive force upon impact. A victim might initially survive his or her injuries but later succumb to them, either at the accident scene or hospital, hours, days or weeks later. An immediate family member can file a wrongful death claim when a loved one’s death was the result of driver negligence.
This is also true in cases where a loved one’s death occurred in other circumstances, such as a violent crime or medical negligence. When one files a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must list damages when seeking restitution. Every state has its own guidelines regarding maximum compensation.
The court takes several factors under consideration in a wrongful death claim
Wrongful death proceedings may or may not include a jury in a Pennsylvania courtroom. Either way, it is the judge overseeing the case who has the final say and may increase or reduce compensation for damages. The following list includes numerous issues that may influence the court’s decision:
- Degree of victim’s suffering if death was not instantaneous
- Medical and funeral expenses
- Potential earning capacity of the victim if he or she survived
- Financial status of the victim at the time of his or her death
- Financial status of plaintiff
- Testimonies presented in court
Regarding the latter, evidence, including testimonies presented during wrongful death proceedings, often influences a judge’s decision. He or she may enlist an experienced economist to offer an accurate valuation of damages.
Certain elements must exist to prove a wrongful death claim
While it is always tragic to lose a loved one, to obtain the court’s favor in a wrongful death claim, certain elements must be demonstrated. If you’re a plaintiff in such a case, you must convince the court that the defendant owed a duty of care to your loved one and failed in that duty. You must also prove that this failure of duty was a direct cause of your family member’s death.
In Pennsylvania and throughout the country, there are resources available to assist families who are grieving the loss of a loved one due to a motor vehicle collision, violent crime or other incident. Such resources include licensed counselors who can assist in the grieving process, as well as legal teams who can represent plaintiffs in a wrongful death claim, which makes litigation a lot less stressful for families who have already been emotionally traumatized.