The Wrongful Death of a loved one is always a distressing loss, and no financial compensation can possibly compensate for that loss. When a loved one’s death is caused by another’s negligence or recklessness, the law provides for rights of recovery to surviving family members through an action for Wrongful Death. While no financial compensation can make up for your loss, it can provide you with the security and financial resources that you and your family need to begin moving forward with your lives. In addition, filing a Wrongful Death suit can deter negligent individuals and companies, saving others from the tragedies associated with Wrongful Death. Filing the suit can help to protect the other citizens of Montgomery County, Bucks County, and the greater Philadelphia area.
What is Wrongful Death? Wrongful Death is a facet of personal injury law that arises from the death of a family member that was caused by the negligent, willful, or wrongful act or omission of another individual or entity. Wrongful Death differs from other types of personal injury claims in that the actual victim, called the “decedent,” does not file suit. Rather, it is the surviving family members or the decedent’s estate. Accordingly, a Wrongful Death suit is brought to recover damages for the injuries that the surviving family and/or estate have suffered due to the death of the victim. The purpose of a Wrongful Death suit is to provide relief for surviving family members who have been injured emotionally and financially as a result of a family member’s death.
How do I know if I have a Wrongful Death claim? Wrongful Death often occurs as a result of auto, plane, and other common carrier accidents, occupational exposure to hazardous conditions, head injuries including those that occur during supervised activity such as field trips and sports tournaments, medical malpractice and defective drugs, and abuse or neglect while in the care of a nursing home. When death results from any of these activities, you may have a Wrongful Death claim and should contact an attorney experienced in Wrongful Death suits.
Who can file a Wrongful Death suit? In Pennsylvania, there is a distinction between persons who can file a Wrongful Death suit and persons who are entitled to damages, called the “beneficiaries.” Only certain individuals can file Wrongful Death suits, and those that are allowed to sue do so on behalf the beneficiaries. In Pennsylvania, a surviving spouse, child, parent/guardian of the deceased, or a person appointed by the state to represent the beneficiaries, called a “personal representative,” may file a Wrongful Death suit on behalf of the beneficiaries. “Collateral relatives,” such as siblings and cousins of the decedent, do not have the right to bring the lawsuit unless they have been named as guardian or personal representative of the decedent, in which case they still have no right of recovery so long as there is a surviving spouse, child, or parent of the decedent. If there is no surviving spouse, child or parent, however, collateral relatives may file the suit on behalf of the decedent’s estate and may participate in the recovery through the estate.
How do I file a Wrongful Death suit? To file a Wrongful Death suit in Pennsylvania, you must show that the death of a person was caused by a negligent, willful, or wrongful act or omission of another, and that the act or omission would have entitled the injured person to file an action to recover damages had the death not occurred. In addition, there must be surviving beneficiaries and monetary damages must have resulted from the decedent’s death.
What if those responsible deny any wrongdoing? If your family member has been a victim of a Wrongful Death, Fairlie & Lippy will hire experts to investigate the reasons for the accident. We will investigate the accident, determine who is responsible, and take action to help you through this difficult time in obtaining the compensation that is available to you under the law.
How much time after the death do I have to file a Wrongful Death suit? Every state has certain time limits, called “statutes of limitations,” which determine the time frame within which survivors can file a claim. In Pennsylvania for example, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death is generally two years from the date of the death. Once the limit has expired, survivors lose their rights to seek damages from the negligent party. Consequently, it is important to contact an attorney with experience in Wrongful Death suits as soon as possible to ensure that you receive everything to which you are entitled to under the law.
What damages can I receive? In Pennsylvania, the damages you could receive will depend on your relationship with the victim. The damages recovered do not include damages sustained by the decedent, but for damages to his or her family caused by the death. Examples of Wrongful Death damages include:
- A loss of monetary support from the victim, including his or her income, insurance and possible inheritance
- Funeral and other death-related expenses
- Loss of companionship and mental anguish associated with the death
- Punitive damages meant to punish the defendant
At Fairlie & Lippy, we can provide answers to these questions and any others you may have. We have the knowledge and experience to determine if you have a valid Wrongful Death claim and to help you understand the law and your rights. We will pursue every avenue available, leaving no stone unturned, to ensure that you receive fair compensation for the death of your family member to help you and your family to begin moving forward with your lives.