Losing a loved one can be devastating for families in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Not only must you deal with your grief, but your family may be suddenly faced with financial challenges resulting from the loss of an income and expenses incurred prior to your loved one’s death. Although it cannot bring back the family member you lost, it may be helpful for you to understand who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Under state law, wrongful death claims may be brought in cases when a person’s death is caused by the negligent, violent or otherwise wrongful actions of another. However, they must be filed by the personal representative of the decedent. This may be a person designated in a will executed by your loved one during his or her lifetime. If your loved one did not have a will, his or her surviving spouse or children may be appointed by the court to fill this role.

Although wrongful death actions must be brought by your loved one’s personal representative, they are for the benefit of his or her beneficiaries or estate. State law dictates that, with few exceptions, damages awarded in wrongful death claims are disbursed to the decedent’s surviving spouse, children or parents in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws.

Wrongful death claims may still be filed if the deceased does not have any surviving beneficiaries. In these cases, his or her personal representative may bring a lawsuit on behalf of the estate seeking damages for any medical, hospital, nursing and funerary expenses associated with the injuries that caused his or her death.

This post is meant only as general information and should not be considered legal advice.