When a loved one dies as a result of negligence, the surviving family has the legal right to file a claim against the at-fault party. This type of claim allows the family to seek compensation for their loved one’s untimely death. These actions are often complex, which is why it’s best to seek legal guidance from a West Chester wrongful death lawyer.
We understand if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of filing a wrongful death claim, but it’s important to consider your family’s financial future—especially if the deceased was the breadwinner. While every claim is unique, there are certain laws and elements that connect them. Let’s take a look at what filing a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania looks like.
Legal Claims for Accidental Deaths in West Chester
Under Pennsylvania law, wrongful death is a preventable death resulting from the wrongful act or neglect of another. In most cases, the actions that resulted in the death must be the same type of actions that would support a personal injury claim. While a wrongful death claim is considered a part of civil law, a criminal case can be filed at the same time if the circumstances of the death apply.
A local example of a wrongful death case settled in 2016 after a young child was killed by an IKEA dresser that tipped over. At the time, two other cases were filed for the wrongful loss of children because of the piece of furniture. As a result, IKEA agreed to redesign its dressers to comply with the national voluntary standard for tip-over safety and stability. The settlement totaled $50 million.
In PA, wrongful death claims must be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. If they were not appointed prior to the person’s passing in a will or other official document, the court can appoint one. The personal representative has six months to file the claim after the date of death. If they fail to do so, any beneficiary may file the claim on behalf of all the beneficiaries.
It’s important to note that a statute of limitations applies to these claims for when they must be filed within the court system. Wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the deceased’s passing to be considered eligible for recovery.
Circumstances Resulting in Wrongful Death
Determining the event that led to your loved one’s untimely passing is likely to be obvious, but figuring out who’s responsible can be challenging. We represent clients whose family members have died in accidents including:
- Automobile accidents
- Medical negligence
- Fatal slip and falls
- Accidents at work
- Defective products or medical devices
In PA in 2018, there were a total of 1,190 fatalities resulting from traffic accidents. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the majority of those deaths resulted from a lack of seatbelt use. Other factors present in a significant number of fatal crashes include impairment, age, and distraction. Accidents involving motorcycles and tractor-trailers were also more likely to be deadly.
As patients, we’re supposed to be able to trust medical professionals with our lives and wellbeing when being treated at a hospital, doctor’s office, or other medical facility. Unfortunately, Johns Hopkins estimates that 250,000 people die because of medical errors on an annual basis in the United States. These mistakes are often related to poor communication and inadequate training.
Property owners have a responsibility to visitors to remove hazards or provide a warning for a dangerous condition. When a negligent owner fails to do so, someone may experience a slip and fall accident. The most at risk for fatal injuries include the elderly and those who sustain traumatic brain injuries.
Certain industries are more dangerous than others. For example, those who work in construction or healthcare are more likely to sustain injuries on the job. When heavy machinery, improper safety procedures, or inexperience is an issue, the injuries have the potential to be fatal.
Manufacturers are supposed to ensure the products they release are safe. When corners are cut to save money or inadequate warnings are provided to consumers, wrongful deaths are possible.
If your loved one’s accident falls into a different category, we may still be able to help. When you contact our law firm, our attorneys will review your case and determine if there are grounds to file a claim. If there are, we’ll start building a case and determining how much compensation you’re owed.
Pursuing Compensation for the Death of a Loved One in Pennsylvania
There are a number of factors that play into the value of a wrongful death claim. Your lawyer will make sure the compensation you receive helps your family recover financially from the loss of your loved one. Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to seek monetary recovery for medical care, funeral and burial expenses, loss of future income, loss of benefits or inheritance, loss of companionship, guidance, or love, the pain and suffering your loved one experienced prior to their passing as a result of the accident, and your family’s emotional distress.
One of the factors that determine value is how many claimants involved. For example, the wrongful death of a middle-aged physician with a spouse and three children will be valued differently than the wrongful death of an unemployed college student.
While there’s a chance your claim could settle outside of court, sometimes pursuing a lawsuit is the only way to ensure you get full and fair compensation. If that’s the case, a judge or jury will decide what your family is owed. How the jury perceives what happened based on how the evidence is presented and their empathy plays a role in what they decide to value a wrongful death.
While determining and fighting for deserved compensation is often challenging, our attorneys are prepared to fight for your family and ensure you get what you need financially to recover from your loss.
Secure Your Family’s Future with Shrager & Sachs
The unexpected loss of a loved one is always painful, but if you know negligence played a role you have the right to hold that person or entity accountable. While this won’t bring your loved one back, it will secure your family’s financial future and hopefully provide you with a sense of peace.
Filing a wrongful death claim may seem complicated, but our West Chester wrongful death lawyers will make the process as easy as possible for you and your family. We will give you the space you need to grieve your loss while keeping you updated on all the important information regarding your claim.
If you have questions about filing a claim on behalf of your loved one, get in touch with our law firm. We understand how sensitive wrongful death cases are, so we’re prepared to provide your family with the support required to get you through this difficult time.