Losing a loved one is heartbreaking regardless of the circumstances in which it occurred. However, when you lose a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, in addition to the grief, there is the motivation to hold the at-fault party accountable and take action so as to minimize the chances of such unnecessary tragedies occurring in the future. Holding these parties responsible also gives families a sense of justice for the death of their loved ones.
There is no amount of compensation that could bring your loved one back and going through a harrowing legal process at a time of grief and emotional trauma may be too much for families. This is why it would be in your best interest to contact an experienced Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney who can handle these claims and the paperwork and process on your behalf.
When is a Wrongful Death Claim Filed?
A wrongful death claim is a civil action that is filed when someone dies because of another person or entity’s negligent actions, or in some cases, lack of action. This could happen in a number of scenarios. For example, when a murder is committed, the victim’s family could sue the defendant for wrongful death in addition to the criminal case brought against him or her.
Another example is when a drunk driver strikes a pedestrian. In such cases where the pedestrian died as a result of the driver’s negligence and/or wrongdoing, the victim’s family can file a wrongful death lawsuit in addition to any criminal charges that are brought against the defendant. Wrongful death lawsuits are also common in medical malpractice cases where a doctor made a fatal error during surgery or failed to diagnose a deadly disease or medical condition.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Under Pennsylvania law, a personal representative of the victim’s estate must file a wrongful death lawsuit. This personal representative is assigned by the decedent’s will or may be assigned by the court if there is no will. The personal representative is the one who files the claim for wrongful death in Pennsylvania. However, the claim is filed on behalf of the beneficiaries of the victim’s estate, who are considered “the real parties in interest.”
Pennsylvania law requires that these real parties of interest be limited to the decedent’s spouse, children or parents. It doesn’t matter whether these individuals are citizens or residents of the state or reside elsewhere. What this essentially means is that under Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Act, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and other family members of the decedent may not be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
The law does allow for the beneficiaries to file the lawsuit if the personal representative of the victim’s estate fails to file the wrongful death claim within six months of the date of death. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, please contact an experienced Philadelphia wrongful death lawyer who will remain on your side, fight for your rights and help ensure that you secure maximum compensation for your tremendous losses.