When another person’s wrongful actions or negligence cause the death of your loved one, you may deal with more than just emotional turmoil. You may also experience financial upset as your household suddenly shrinks from a two- to one-income home.
Though no amount of money can bring your loved one back, it can help to offset the costs associated with his or her passing and bridge the income gap left in his or her wake. To ensure you can grieve properly and in financial comfort, Pennsylvania law entitles you to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Nolo explains the eligibility requirements for filing a wrongful death action in Pennsylvania and to what damages the law may entitle you.
Eligibility requirements for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in PA
Not just any grieving survivor can file a wrongful death lawsuit in the Keystone State. Per state law, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate — otherwise known as the executor — is the only person who has the power to file a wrongful death claim within the first six months of the deceased’s passing. However, if the representative fails to file a claim within that time, any one of the deceased’s beneficiaries may file a claim on behalf of all the other beneficiaries.
Damages you may recover in a wrongful death lawsuit
The purpose of wrongful death damages is to compensate victims’ surviving loved ones for any losses that they experience as a result of victims’ premature deaths. Damages recovered via a wrongful death action may also go toward the estate. In Pennsylvania, the estate or survivors may receive compensation for a range of losses, including the following:
- Medical and hospital expenses
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Lost wages and benefits, including amounts survivors would have expected the deceased to earn had he or she lived
- Expenses associated with estate administration
- Loss of household services that the deceased provided, such as lawn care and home maintenance
- Loss of parental guidance, consortium and comfort
The law intends for select survivors to benefit from a wrongful death claim. Typically, you can benefit if you are a surviving spouse, parent or child. However, even if your relationship with the deceased is not that of a spouse, parent or child, you may still file a wrongful death action as the personal representative of the estate on behalf of the estate.
Wrongful death claims can quickly become complex, especially when the defendant has an experienced attorney on his or her side. Ideally, you will not attempt to pursue such a delicate and important matter on your own.