A wrongful death is a fatality that occurs as the result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. If you have lost a loved one as the result of a car accident that was someone else’s fault or as the result of medical negligence, then, you may be able to collect damages by filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania. You and your family members may be able to recover compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages and other significant losses that come with the death of a beloved family member.
While monetary compensation is one aspect of a wrongful death lawsuit, a number of families we represent at KaplunMarx, PLLC says they resort to a wrongful death action because they want justice for the death of their loved one. Others file a wrongful death action because they hope the case will bring about a change that prevents similar tragedies from happening in the future, helping ensure that their loved one’s death was not in vain. Most also pursue wrongful death actions in order to hold the wrongdoers accountable for their negligence and misconduct.
What is Statute of Limitations?
In order to recover damages by filing a wrongful death lawsuit, Pennsylvania statute requires that your lawsuit be filed in a timely manner. Under Pennsylvania law, your wrongful death lawsuit should be filed within the established amount of time. If it is not filed within the stated time frame, then the plaintiff may forever be prohibited from pursuing damages in court. There are some time limits plaintiffs should be aware of if filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania.
Wrongful death actions typically arise from a variety of negligent incidents including motor vehicle accidents, slip-and-fall accident, defective products and medical negligence. Under Pennsylvania law, the general statute of limitations rule is that a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years from the date of death. There are, however, exceptions to these general limitations rules.
What Are The Exceptions?
In some cases, the plaintiff may not realize right away that he or she has suffered an injury. There are cases where the victim’s injuries or cause of death does not become apparent or clear for weeks or even months after the accident or incident that caused the death. For example, if a person died from exposure to certain chemicals at work, but did not know that the health condition he suffered was due to the toxic exposure, then the law extends the time for filing wrongful death actions by delaying when the limitations period begins to the date that the plaintiff knew or should have known the cause of the fatal injury/illness.
There is also an exception when it comes to filing wrongful death actions against governmental agencies in Pennsylvania. If the party that is responsible for your injuries is a city, county, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or an agency of the Commonwealth, city or county, then the rules change with regard to the statute of limitations. The process for filing such a wrongful death claim against a governmental agency is also different.
The law, in such cases, does not allow plaintiffs to simply file a lawsuit in court seeking compensation for damages against the government. In these cases, the plaintiff must first file a notice of intent (NOI) to file the lawsuit within six months of the incident or accident. If a notice of intent is not filed within six months, the victim may be prohibited from suing the governmental entity in court, even if the plaintiff ends up filing a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the death.
What Steps Should You Take?
The loss of a loved one is without question, absolutely devastating. This is especially true when a loved one is killed due to another’s negligence or wrongdoing. If you have recently lost a loved one due to a wrongful act, there are a number of steps you could take that could help ensure that you file your wrongful death lawsuit in a timely manner before the statute of limitations runs out:
- Take the time to grieve. Your most important first step is to take care yourself and other family members. Take the time you need to do what is necessary to properly grieve your loss including grief counseling.
- Collect the information you need. If you intend to file a wrongful death claim, it is necessary that you have the necessary documentation. For example, if your loved one was struck and killed by a drunk driver, it is critical that you get a copy of the police report. If your loved one died after tripping and falling an escalator in a local mall, obtain an incident report from the mall and a police report if there is one.
- Gather evidence. If possible, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible from the scene of the incident. Some important pieces of evidence that can help include photographs, eyewitness contact information and statements, and any type of physical evidence.
- Contact an experienced Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to help you not only gather additional evidence but could also get a court order to preserve vital evidence, which might otherwise be lost, misplaced or destroyed. Your attorney will help you put the evidence together and serve as a strong, authoritative voice on your side, fighting for your rights and helping ensure that you are fairly compensated for your significant losses.
Why Hire Us?
The experienced wrongful death attorneys in Pennsylvania at KaplunMarx, PLLC are always available to personally go over your case. We have a thorough knowledge of wrongful death law and are familiar with the strategies insurance companies utilize in order to shortchange our clients. We use our experience and resources to help recover maximum compensation for your losses. We have secured millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients and we can help you too. We provide compassionate legal representation to our clients. We understand that this is an extremely challenging time for you. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.