If Pennsylvania police have contacted you to inform you that your loved one was in a motor vehicle collision or was a victim of a violent crime or some other type of accident, you may understandably feel shocked and frightened. If your loved one does not survive his or her injuries, it will take time to process your grief and learn to move on in life without your beloved family member. What should you do, however, if you discover that your loved one’s death was preventable and caused by another person’s negligence or malicious actions?
In the legal industry, this type of situation is a ‘‘wrongful death incident.’’ This means that a death would likely not have happened had it not been for someone’s wrongful behavior, such as drunk driving or an assault crime. State law allows one to file a wrongful death claim in civil court to seek justice and restitution against the individual or group deemed responsible for the decedent’s fatal injuries.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
To file a wrongful death claim, you must be an immediate family member or dependent of the decedent. Such members would include a spouse, a parent or an adult child, for example. State law allows you to file a claim that your loved one would have been eligible to file had he or she survived the incident that caused his or her death.
What happens in a wrongful death case?
If you file a wrongful death claim, you must include a list of damages for which you are seeking compensation, otherwise known as financial recovery for your losses. In Pennsylvania, damages may include expenses from medical treatment provided for your loved one before he or she passed away. You may also list loss of potential earnings, loss of consortium (which means the ability to have a relationship with your family member) and other issues, as well, such as emotional trauma.
As the plaintiff in a wrongful death case, you must prove that certain elements existed at the time of the incident. Such elements include the defendant owing a duty of care, a failure to fulfill that duty, negligence causing an accident or incident, and damage resulting from it. If the judge or jury is convinced by the evidence you have presented, the court may rule in your favor for the damages you have requested, for a lesser amount or for more, depending on the details of your case.