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When someone is taken from us too early, it can be a great shock, leaving people with a huge amount of grief and wondering why the wrongful death happened in the first place. This is especially true if someone was unexpectedly killed in a car wreck, a worksite accident, during a medical procedure, or due to someone else’s negligence, reckless behavior, or violence.

Even though grief persists in this dark period, life goes on for the surviving family members after the untimely death of a loved one. Unfortunately, bills still have to be paid, people have to go to work, a funeral has to be arranged, and mouths have to be fed.

This is the worst possible time to have to worry about money, and while no amount of compensation can make up for a loved one’s premature death, families should not have to pay for the long-term financial ramifications of a deadly accident that was the fault of another person, employer, company, medical professional, or faulty product.

What is Wrongful Death in Pittsburgh?

Wrongful death is a legal term used in civil cases for a death caused by another’s negligence. Lawsuits can be filed by immediate surviving family members, such as a spouse, parent, or child or someone assigned as a personal representative. If someone is to blame for the death of your loved one, even if they were cleared of criminal charges, either he or she (or their insurance company) could be held liable for damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.

In Pittsburgh, as in most places, a wrongful death is when someone dies because of the negligence, recklessness, or the intentional actions of another. The surviving family members or beneficiaries may file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for the various damages they sustained because of the death of their loved one. The damages they may be entitled to depend on the specific details of the case.

Here are some of the more common damages surviving loved ones could be entitled to following a wrongful death:

  • Medical expenses: These costs include the cost of care leading up to the passing, such as bills like ambulance rides, diagnostic tests, emergency room stays or treatment, hospital stays or treatment, surgeries, procedures, treatment of injuries, and intensive care unit (ICU) expenses.
  • Burial and funeral-related expenses: These damages are to reimburse the family for the money they spent on the burial and funeral services, including cremation costs.
  • Loss of income and benefits: The deceased person would have gone on to generate more income and would have garnered money from other wages if they had survived. These benefits might include a growing retirement savings account, pension benefits, retirement savings, and other forms of compensation.
  • Loss of consortium: A spouse or partner who has lost the companionship, protection, intimacy, and love of their partner may be entitled to loss of consortium.
  • Pain and suffering: This aspect of damages applies to the pain and suffering the deceased person had to tolerate leading up to their death as well as the emotional pain and suffering their loved ones experienced.
  • Loss of household services: The person who died contributed some services to the household, including household chores, cooking, cleaning, childcare, gardening, and home maintenance. Because of their untimely death, those services may have to be hired out, meaning reimbursement for that cost might be available.
  • Loss of inheritance: When a life is shortened, obviously the amount of financial assets that they accumulate is diminished as well. Because a wrongful death occurred, the estate’s beneficiaries can ask for the loss of inheritance they could have expected had their loved one lived out their full natural life.
  • Property damage: These damages calculate the cost of replacing or repairing property damaged or destroyed in the incident that caused the wrongful death.
  • Punitive damages: If the cause of death was particularly heinous behavior, punitive damages could be used to punish the responsible party or parties and discourage them and others from participating in similar conduct.

It is essential to realize that in every case, damages may vary, and there may be some limitations under Pennsylvania law. Understanding your legal rights and how to pursue the compensation you are entitled to require an experienced Pennsylvania wrongful death lawyer like those on our team at SMT Legal.

Working to Ensure Compensation for the Deceased’s Loved Ones

As a close family member or a dependent of the deceased, you may be entitled to collect compensation for your financial burdens. Our legal team understands that insurance companies employ teams of insurance attorneys to fight the big payouts that would otherwise cut into their profits. We will aggressively fight for you to receive the maximum compensation available.

We work with families to deal with the insurance companies involved. The goal of the insurance companies and their attorneys is to pay you the minimum amount they can get away with. We will aggressively fight the insurance companies and their attorneys to get you the full compensation you deserve.

Causes of Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death

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.

Even if a person is cleared of criminal charges, such as in a car accident, for example, they can still be held liable, and their insurance company could be forced to pay the compensation owed to the deceased’s family in a civil lawsuit. A civil lawsuit is also 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 the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, like other states, there are a variety of situations that can result in a wrongful death lawsuit. Here are some possible causes listed below:

  • Medical malpractice commonly leads to wrongful death lawsuits in the Pittsburgh area. These happen when a healthcare provider does not provide the appropriate level of care, prescribes the wrong medicines or the wrong dosages, fails to diagnose an illness, and/or creates an error during surgery or other procedures that leads to the patient’s death.
  • Automobile accidents are also a common cause of wrongful death lawsuits. Drivers who are negligent or reckless end up creating a fatal car accident that can lead to them being forced to take financial responsibility in a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Workplace accidents include injuries or illnesses resulting in death sustained in the workplace or due to on-the-job conditions. These often happen in construction, manufacturing, and transportation-related jobs, especially when another employee or employer is negligent in their duties.
  • Defective products can cause fatal accidents and injuries. The beneficiaries of the victim may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the product’s designer, manufacturer, distributor, seller, or others in the supply chain if a death occurs due to product defects.
  • Criminal behavior may result in the death of a person. For instance, in the case of manslaughter. The victim’s family can file a civil lawsuit against the person whose conduct caused the death.
  • Nursing home abuse can result from an elderly person being neglected or mistreated. If a loved one dies due to this mistreatment, the family may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the staff and the facility.

There are a variety of potential causes of wrongful death lawsuits in Pittsburgh. One of our experienced trial lawyers will examine the evidence surrounding your case and determine whether it was a case of wrongful death. We will then use all of the resources available to us to devise a strategy that tells your loved one’s compelling story so that the court understands that the perpetrator should be held responsible for their death.

Some Other Possible Causes of Pennsylvania Wrongful Deaths

There are various other ways that wrongful death claims arise in and around the Pittsburgh area, and we are ready to help families who have lost loved ones due to:

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.

Who’s Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Under Pennsylvania 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.

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.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims?

“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.

What Factors 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:

  • 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, mentoring, and a plethora of other economic and non-economic damages.
  • Insurance coverage: 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.
  • Evidence: 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.
  • Lawyer: 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.

How SMT Legal Can Help

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. We will meticulously evaluate all applicable medical records, 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 experienced wrongful death lawyers of SMT Legal to discuss your case with a free initial consultation today.

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