Losing a loved one causes profound pain and grief, especially if someone else’s negligence or misconduct caused the death. In Pennsylvania, specific laws and procedures exist for families who believe their loved one died wrongfully.
Navigating this process can seem complex, but understanding how it works can guide you during a difficult time.
Understanding wrongful death
A wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania is a legal action that family members of a person who died due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful act can take. Situations might include car accidents, medical malpractice or defective products. Typically, a representative of the deceased person’s estate brings the claim.
Initiating the claim
The first step involves determining who can file a wrongful death claim. In Pennsylvania, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate usually has this eligibility. This representative acts on behalf of the beneficiaries, typically immediate family members like spouses, children or parents.
To build a wrongful death claim, you must collect evidence to prove that the defendant’s negligence or wrongful act led to the death. This evidence may include police reports, medical records, witness statements and other supporting documents.
Filing the claim
You must file the claim within a specific time frame, known as the statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, you generally have two years from the death to file a wrongful death claim. You usually file the claim in the county where the death occurred.
Negotiating a settlement
After you file the claim, you may start negotiations with the responsible party or their insurance company. This phase includes discussions about the evidence and the value of the claim, aiming to reach a settlement agreement.
Going to court
If you cannot reach a settlement, the case may go to court. A trial requires presenting evidence, examining witnesses and making legal arguments. The judge or jury then decides the outcome of the case and determines the compensation amount, if any.
The process of claiming wrongful death in Pennsylvania requires understanding the steps involved. The ultimate goal is to achieve justice for your loved one and obtain compensation that supports your family in a time of great difficulty.