An overview of wrongful death in Pennsylvania

It is an unfortunate fact that those that are victims of someone else's carelessness sometimes pay the ultimate price. If you have lost a close family member in such circumstances, you may wonder what your legal recovery options are. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, you have the right to recover compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit for various losses you suffer because of the death.

Overview of lawsuit

A wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate following any time that a loved one is killed because of a careless, negligent or intentional act of someone else. For instance, this type of lawsuit is often filed following fatal car accidents, industrial accidents, medical malpractice and violent crimes such as murder. The responsible party may be charged with a crime for his or her role in the death, but wrongful death is a civil action. As such, your right to file the lawsuit (or the outcome thereof) is not affected by the presence or absence of criminal charges.

Wrongful death is different from most other types of lawsuits in that the aggrieved party does not sue the party responsible for the death directly in most cases. Instead, the lawsuit is filed by the executor or administrator of the deceased's estate. However, if six months have elapsed since the death, any eligible party may file the lawsuit under Pennsylvania law. All compensation recovered by the lawsuit is distributed to eligible family members according to the law.

Under the law, not every family member is eligible to recover compensation. In general, only the decedent's spouse, parents and children may recover. Additionally, each eligible family member must show that they have suffered losses because of the death before they may recover damages.

Compensation available

Under Pennsylvania law, various types of economic and noneconomic losses may be recovered in wrongful death lawsuits. These include the following:

• Loss of decedent's future income

• Loss of inheritance

• Medical bills

• Funeral and burial expenses

• Loss of decedent's companionship or parental guidance

• Mental anguish

• Pain and suffering

Aside from a wrongful death lawsuit, in some cases, family members may file a separate civil action called a survivorship action. This type of lawsuit seeks recovery for the personal injuries suffered by the decedent prior to death.

Speak with an attorney

Unfortunately, wrongful death lawsuits cannot bring the decedent back to life. However, they can help aggrieved family members obtain the financial resources that allow them to move on with their lives. If a loved one has perished following someone's act of carelessness, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can advise you further on your recovery options and work on your behalf to obtain fair compensation under the law.