When someone is taken from us too early, it can be a great shock, leaving people with a huge amount of grief, debt, and wondering why the wrongful death happened in the first place. As a close family member or a dependent of the deceased, you may be entitled to collect compensation for your financial burdens. The Pittsburgh wrongful death lawyers at SMT Legal will aggressively fight for you to receive the maximum compensation available. Our skilled and experienced wrongful death attorneys understand that insurance companies employ teams of insurance attorneys to fight the big payouts that would otherwise cut into their profits.
Wrongful Death Claims in Pennsylvania Explained
What is a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death occurs when an individual dies as a result of someone else’s negligence, misconduct, or malpractice. Wrongful death can happen in any accident where another person, doctor or medical professional, organization, company, or manufacturer is to blame for someone else’s premature death. This can include deaths caused by car accidents, motor vehicle accidents, misdiagnosis, workplace accidents, premises liability, nursing homes, and more. The death can be sudden or prolonged and is often caused by someone failing to fulfill their duty of care.
A civil lawsuit is the only way the survivors can make a legal claim for financial benefits. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil lawsuits that are filed when someone dies because of wrongful actions or the negligence of another party. In Pennsylvania, like other states, there are a variety of situations that can result in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who’s Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under Pennsylvania wrongful death law, wrongful death claims can only be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. Typically, the personal representative is an executor that was named in the deceased’s will. If the deceased died without a will, surviving family members can volunteer to become the personal representative of the estate and thus be eligible to file a wrongful death claim to recover damages. If no one volunteers, the court will appoint someone to represent the estate.
Under Pennsylvania wrongful death law, wrongful death claims can only be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
The personal representative eligible to bring a wrongful death claim in a Pennsylvania court never files the claim on his or her own behalf. Rather, the wrongful death is filed on behalf of all eligible beneficiaries who are eligible to receive any amount of wrongful death settlement as part of the court award.
Under 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated (PA CSA) §8301, the only surviving family members who are eligible to be beneficiaries in wrongful death cases are the deceased’s surviving spouse, children, and the parents. To qualify as a beneficiary in a wrongful death claim, the eligible surviving family members must demonstrate that they suffered economic and non-economic damages due to losing their loved one.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Cases
“Statute of limitations” is a legal phrase used to describe the timeframe within which you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In Pennsylvania, if the personal representative of the estate has not pursued a claim within six months from the deceased’s death, any qualified beneficiary will be eligible to file it.
In our state, there is a two-year limit from the date of the death to bring a wrongful death claim. Since these cases tend to be rather complex, and it can take years for surviving family members to receive their compensation, it is critical that the process of bringing an action for wrongful death begins as quickly as possible.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in PA: How the Pittsburgh Wrongful Death Lawyers at SMT Legal Can Help
Our team of wrongful death attorneys at SMT Legal are dedicated to guiding you through the legal process, providing support at every step of the way. We understand the complexities of wrongful death cases in Pennsylvania and work diligently to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your loss. Our wrongful death lawyers meticulously examine the circumstances surrounding the case, gather necessary evidence, and build a compelling argument to hold the responsible party accountable. We are experienced in negotiating settlements and, if necessary, we are prepared to advocate for you and your loved ones in court. With the professional experienced personal injury attorneys of SMT Legal, you can focus on healing while we work towards securing justice on your behalf.
Gathering Evidence for a Wrongful Death Case
Families who have recently lost a loved one have a great amount to deal with, and the last thing they should be doing in their grief is trying to collect medical records and accident reports. However, after a fatal accident, it is critical to start investigating the case immediately so that all evidence can be preserved and collected to build a solid and winnable case. Fortunately, you do not have to do this alone. Our wrongful death attorneys have compassion and empathy for what you and your family are going through, and we will take charge of gathering the evidence for your case.
You will not ever have to pay us unless we are able to obtain a financial recovery for you. We will start as soon as possible by speaking to witnesses, gathering police reports, and filing the necessary paperwork.
Factors That Affect a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
There are many different independent and unique factors that might affect your wrongful death settlement or award. Our Pittsburgh personal injury attorneys have outlined a few major factors that might affect your compensation in a Pennsylvania wrongful death lawsuit:
Wrongful Death Damages Sustained
The value of a wrongful death case has a direct link to the amount of damages sustained by each eligible beneficiary as a result of the death of their family member. For example, the potential value of a claim after the death of a 22-year-old unemployed unmarried young man who only had parents survive him might be drastically lower than that filed after the death of a 39-year-old employed married man with four minor children. Most of the time, beneficiaries can be compensated for the loss of future income, loss of companionship, lost benefits, funeral expenses, medical expenses, mentoring, and many other economic and non-economic damages.
Punitive damages, although not always awarded, could come into play if the defendant’s conduct was especially harmful or egregious, serving to punish the defendant and deter others from similar wrongdoing in the future.
The worth of a wrongful death award or settlement is also affected by how much insurance coverage the wrongful death defendant has. Unfortunately, in many wrongful death lawsuits, the amount of money collected by the surviving family members is limited to the amount of the at-fault party’s available insurance coverage.
The success and value of a wrongful death lawsuit also depend on the strength of the evidence presented by the claimant in court. To collect compelling evidence for your case, it is important to hire an attorney who will conduct a thorough investigation. The more compelling your evidence, the greater the likelihood of receiving a higher payout faster than anticipated.
Skill of Your Wrongful Death Attorneys
The more experienced the lawyer you hire for your case, the more likely you are to obtain maximum compensation for all of the damages caused by the death of your loved one. The personal injury lawyers at SMT Legal have years of experience practicing Pennsylvania law, and will provide you with the legal advice you need through this difficult time.
Contact the Pittsburgh Wrongful Death Attorneys at SMT Legal Today and Schedule a Free Consultation
Whether your loved one was killed in an accident or was the victim of medical malpractice, we are here to guide you and your family through a life-changing and exceedingly difficult time. Our law firm will rigorously evaluate all applicable medical records, medical bills police reports, and accident reports and consult with medical experts and other experts to prove who was at fault for the tragedy and what harm was caused. We want to help you hold those to blame for the death of your loved one and their insurance companies accountable for what they’ve done to your family. Contact the Pittsburgh wrongful death lawyers of SMT Legal to discuss your case. Free Case Evaluation.