Losing someone close to you is a heart wrenching event. It can feel impossible to move forward after losing a loved one, and there is always an extended time of grieving. If your loved one became ill or was fatally injured due to another party’s negligence, it can be even more difficult to accept. You want justice, and we can help.
At the Pennsylvania law office of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., we represent the surviving families of people who become fatally ill or fatally injured due negligence of all kinds. Our attorneys bring wrongful death lawsuits throughout Pennsylvania and across the United States to pursue maximum compensation for those who have lost loved ones.
Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation. One of our experienced wrongful-death attorneys will review your situation and explain your rights and legal options during this difficult time.
Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Lawsuits
“Wrongful death” is a legal term for a death that is the result of a negligent or reckless act, such as in a car accident caused by another driver or a defective vehicle or negligent repair. By filing a lawsuit, family members can hold a negligent or reckless actor accountable for the harm caused.
Typically, the events that constitute a wrongful death must be the same sort of events that would give rise to a personal injury claim. In other words, the decedent would be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit had their death not occurred. Instead, someone close to the decedent brings the action to seek compensation for damages related to the event that resulted in their death.
Wrongful deaths may arise from many circumstances. At Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., we represent clients in lawsuits related to many different accidents or events that resulted in someone’s death. These include drownings, motor vehicle, motorcycle and trucking accidents, dangerous products and equipment, unsafe property, or medical negligence.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania?
Title 42, Chapter 83 of the Pennsylvania General Statutes, Section 8301 defines who is permitted to file wrongful death claims in Pennsylvania. According to Pennsylvania law, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file the lawsuit. Even though the suit can only be brought by the decedent’s personal representative, it is meant to be on behalf of the his/her beneficiaries. If no wrongful death claim is filed by the personal representative within six months, any of the other beneficiaries are permitted to file a claim. Proceeds from said claim being distributed among all wrongful death beneficiaries.
Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Even though no amount of money could ever replace a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit allows relatives to collect fair compensation for their loss. This is especially critical if the decedent left behind young children and/or a spouse who depended on the decedent for support. By bringing a successful wrongful death action in Pennsylvania courts, families gain the resources they need to move forward with their lives.
If the defendant, or the party that was responsible for the death of your loved one, is also facing criminal charges, this is different from a wrongful death civil claim. While some justice may be served with a criminal conviction, you still have the right to seek monetary damages.
Some of the damages that may be available in a Pennsylvania wrongful death case include:
- Medical expenses incurred before death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost income and benefits, past and future, including any amount that the deceased would have contributed to family support had he or she survived
- Compensation for the loss of household services
- Compensation for the loss of comfort, moral guidance, and support
- Estate administration expenses
- Compensation for pain and suffering
Not all of these damages are available in every case. For example, damages such as loss of companionship, guidance, and comfort are meant to provide compensation to surviving family members when there is an untimely death. These damages are only available if the decedent had a spouse, children, or parents as survivors.
What are the Most Common Forms of Nursing Home Abuse?
Here are some of the most common forms of neglect and abuse that seniors are subjected to in nursing facilities:
Many seniors are on special diets and are only able to tolerate certain types of foods. And when they do not receive proper nourishment, they are at great risk of becoming ill and even developing life-threatening conditions. Part of the problem in this area is that nursing home staff are often not properly trained and do not provide the residents with the meals they are supposed to have. Another issue is that seniors require extra time to eat, and short staffing and/or lack of patience often means that residents are not given adequate time to finish their meals.
Improper Use of Restraints
Sometimes, a nursing home resident needs to be restrained for their own safety. This could be done with physical restraints or chemical restraints (such as medications), or a combination of these. Nursing home employees who are not trained and/or have poor judgment sometimes use these restraints when they are not necessary or appropriate. This can result in very dangerous and deadly conditions; such as extreme physical pain, medication overdoses, severe medical conditions, mental health issues, and even death.
Lack of Adequate Medical Care
Because of understaffing, lack of competence, and similar issues, nursing home residents sometimes do not receive even the basic medical care they need. Some common examples of substandard medical care include failure to check on patients regularly, failure to notice obvious signs that a resident needs medical attention, medication errors (e.g., overdoses, dangerously mixing medications, administering medication to the wrong patient, etc.), and many others.
Nursing home residents may be subjected to more than just neglect. Sometimes, it turns into outright abuse. Some employees have questionable backgrounds and/or they are simply not qualified to work with the elderly. Because of their temperament and/or character issues, they physically abuse a resident when they get frustrated, or they do it just to exert their power or feel superior. Examples of physical abuse include pushing, shoving, pinching, slapping, hitting, kicking, beating, and striking with an object.
As horrifying and sickening as it is to contemplate, sexual abuse occurs in nursing facilities far more often than most people realize. According to a 2017 CNN investigation, more than 1,000 nursing homes throughout the country have been cited in recent years for mishandling suspected cases of sexual abuse. Many of the elderly are seen as easy targets for predators, particularly those who have Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and are less likely to clearly remember the event. This is one of many reasons why thorough and comprehensive background checks are so crucial when nursing facilities hire employees.
Elderly nursing home residents are dependent on their caregivers for almost everything. This makes it very easy for wrongdoers to emotionally abuse someone who is under their care. Examples of emotional/psychological abuse include insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, harassment, and isolation. And because of the major power imbalance between the caregiver and elderly patient, nursing home residents are very reluctant to report abuse for fear of reprisal and/or fear that they will not be believed.
Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Case
In Pennsylvania, there’s a statute of limitations that applies to wrongful death claims, giving families just two years from the date of death to commence an action. Because your time is limited, and because some events can impact the timing of the statute of limitations on a case, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer may also need to conduct an independent investigation to preserve critical evidence that will be needed to prove your case.
When to Speak to a Wrongful Death Lawyer
Regardless of how your loved one was fatally injured, it is critical to consult with an attorney about your legal options before you take action yourself. By settling with an insurance company, you may fail to take into account certain matters, leading to a low and unfair settlement award.
Wrongful death cases are filled with emotion. When you are grieving, you should avoid making any major decisions without first talking to a lawyer. You shouldn’t enter into a settlement, sign any releases, or make any agreements with an insurance company or their attorneys.
The best way to protect your interests is to talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Attorneys You Can Trust
Wrongful death causes financial and emotional hardship for family members. The wrongful-death attorneys at Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C. provide personalized, aggressive, effective investigation and representation in wrongful death cases.
Wrongful death claims can be incredibly complex. You may have to deal with an insurance claim, workers’ compensation, or file a lawsuit in court, all of which have different applicable procedures and laws. Instead of attempting to navigate these issues yourself, contact our trusted and experienced wrongful death lawyers.
We have more than 45 years of experience helping families recover after serious and devastating losses. We know that this is a difficult time, and our priority is to protect your rights and fight for maximum compensation in your case.
Nothing can take away the pain of your loss, but our attorneys will provide the support you need to grieve on your own terms. We urge you to contact us to speak with a lawyer who understands the emotional and legal issues you are going through. We provide free consultations, and we handle wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis – which means no out of pocket risk to you.
To arrange a free, confidential consultation, please contact our office in Pittsburgh at 412-391-9860. You may also reach our office toll-free at 866-466-5789 or fill out our contact form for a prompt response.