Wrongful Death Attorneys
Wrongful death is a legal term that refers to a situation where a person’s death is directly caused by the negligence or intentional actions of another individual or entity. These cases are deeply tragic and often involve complex legal issues that require careful handling and understanding.
At Kingbird Legal, we are dedicated to providing legal support for families who are faced with these devastating circumstances. Our primary focus is not just on seeking justice but also on helping families navigate through the challenging legal intricacies associated with wrongful death claims. Our aim is to lighten the burden, providing clear guidance and compassionate representation while always respecting the emotional hardship that our clients are experiencing.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims
In accordance with Pennsylvania law, wrongful death is characterized as a death that has occurred due to the wrongful act, negligence, or omission of another. The claim is usually brought forth by the decedent’s family or estate to recover damages that arise as a direct result of their untimely loss.
There are numerous incidents that can potentially lead to a wrongful death claim, including:
• Car Accidents: This is one of the most common causes of wrongful death. If a motor vehicle accident is caused by the negligent or reckless actions of another driver, a wrongful death claim may be pursued by the victim’s family.
• Medical Malpractice: When medical professionals fail to provide the standard of care required in their profession, it can lead to patient deaths. This can include surgical errors, misdiagnoses, medication errors, and more.
• Defective Products: Companies are expected to ensure the safety of their products. When a product defect leads to a fatal accident, the designer or manufacturer can be held responsible for the death.
• Pedestrian Accidents: Pedestrians are extremely vulnerable to serious injuries or death in accidents involving motor vehicles. A driver’s negligence, such as failing to yield or driving distracted, can result in a wrongful death claim.
• Premises Liability: Property owners have a legal duty to ensure their premises are safe. If a death occurs due to hazardous conditions on the property, the owner could be held accountable through a wrongful death lawsuit.
The Difference Between Wrongful Death and Survival Actions
In the Pennsylvania legal landscape, wrongful death claims and survival action claims are distinct types of lawsuits, although they both pertain to situations where someone has died due to another party’s negligence.
A wrongful death claim is brought by the personal representative of the decedent to recover damages that they have personally suffered due to their loved one’s death. This can include financial support the decedent provided, as well as non-economic damages like loss of companionship.
On the other hand, a survival action claim is a lawsuit that the decedent could have filed had they lived. Essentially, it is the personal injury claim that survives the death of the victim. This claim is brought by the estate of the decedent and can seek compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased endured before death, along with any medical costs or loss of income.
In scenarios where a person dies due to the negligence of another, both a wrongful death claim and a survival action claim may apply. For instance, if a person is injured in a car accident due to a drunk driver and later dies from these injuries, the decedent’s family could file a wrongful death claim for their personal loss, while the estate of the decedent could file a survival action to seek compensation for the pain, suffering, and financial loss the deceased experienced between the accident and their death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, filing a wrongful death lawsuit comes with specific legal provisions, as outlined in Rule 2202. The rule states that typically, only a “personal representative” of the decedent is permitted to file a claim. This representative can be appointed by the family or assigned by the court, with the responsibility of distributing any compensation obtained from the lawsuit.
Before initiating the claim, the personal representative must secure an order authorizing them to file the action. This involves submitting a petition to the civil courts, which can be done by the representative or their attorney. The representative must meet certain qualifications and receive official approval from a judge to act in this role.
Rule 2202 does stipulate one exception to this general rule. If a personal representative does not file the wrongful death claim within six months from the date of death, anyone “entitled by law to recover damages” can file the claim. This individual acts as trustee ad litem, essentially a trustee for the legal action, representing all those entitled to share in the compensation.
In most cases, the personal representative is a close family member such as a spouse, child, or parent of the person for whom they are filing the claim. These individuals, due to their close relationship with the decedent, often bear the responsibility of seeking justice and compensation for the wrongful death.
The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
For wrongful death claims in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is generally two years. This means that from the date of death, the decedent’s personal representative has a period of two years to file a claim.
If the lawsuit isn’t filed within this two-year period, it is very likely that the courts will refuse to hear the case, barring some exceptions. This highlights the importance of initiating the process as soon as possible to ensure the claim falls within the legally accepted timeframe. This timeframe can be complicated, and its nuances are best navigated with the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced wrongful death attorney.
Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
When it comes to wrongful death cases, understanding the potential compensation is crucial. The damages awarded in these cases are intended to compensate for various losses related to the death. They include:
• Funeral expenses: This can include the costs of burial or cremation, ceremony, and other related expenses that arise from the deceased’s final arrangements.
• Lost wages and benefits: This covers the income the deceased would have earned had they lived, providing financial support for the family left behind.
• Loss of companionship: This category acknowledges the emotional pain and suffering endured by family members due to the loss of their loved one’s presence and companionship.
• Loss of support and services: This compensates for the loss of services that the deceased would have provided, like childcare, home maintenance, and other daily tasks.
• Pain and suffering: This is intended to offer compensation for the mental anguish and emotional distress experienced by the family members.
Additionally, in some cases, punitive damages may be awarded. These are not intended to compensate the family for their loss, but rather to punish the responsible party for particularly reckless or egregious conduct and deter such behavior in the future. The applicability of punitive damages depends on the specifics of each case and is typically only awarded in cases of gross negligence or malicious intent.
Contact Our Knowledgeable and Compassionate Wrongful Death Lawyers
Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence is a devastating experience, and understanding your rights in a wrongful death claim is crucial. If you have experienced such a loss, we extend our sincere condolences and encourage you to reach out to Kingbird Legal for a free consultation to explore your legal options during this difficult time. We represent family members in wrongful death suits throughout Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, and Maryland.
We work on a contingent fee basis. We do not get paid unless you do.
Kingbird Legal specializes in representing personal injury victims in car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, catastrophic injury cases, wrongful death, premises liability (“slip and fall”) accidents, medical malpractice and defective product cases.