What is Wrongful Death, And How Do I File a Case?

Wrongful death concept image with stethoscope and law book

Unlike most legal language, the term “wrongful death” is a relatively uncomplicated description for situations in which a person or people have died due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. However, determining whether you have a wrongful death case can be complicated, requiring assistance from an experienced personal injury attorney.

When you have lost a loved one due to wrongful death, you need to consider bringing a personal injury civil action against the person or company responsible. This is your right under personal injury or “tort” law, which allows you to seek compensation for your immense loss unrelated to any criminal charges that might have been filed against the wrongdoer.

Of course, there are a few more things to know about how wrongful death lawsuits work. That’s where today’s post comes in. We’re answering a few big questions our prospective clients often have in the aftermath of a tragic loss of a loved one while they try to determine what’s next.

What Qualifies As a Wrongful Death?

While there are untold examples of situations that could be described as wrongful death, a wrongful death claim can be made against an individual/individuals or company/companies which caused someone’s death either intentionally or through reckless/negligent behavior. Some examples are:

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, only the personal representative—often known as the executor/executrix or administrator of the deceased individual’s estate—can file a wrongful death claim.

However, if the personal representative fails to file the lawsuit within six months of the alleged wrongful death, any person entitled by law to recover damages may bring suit on behalf of all persons entitled to share in the damages. In either situation, the personal representative or the estate’s beneficiaries should consult with an experienced attorney for guidance, as a wrongful death lawsuit will lengthen the probate process.

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What Types of Compensation Can I Pursue?

Because wrongful death lawsuits are a type of civil action, monetary damages are the sole type of compensation recoverable in these cases. It’s true that a wrongful death claim can be made at the same time that a criminal case is underway against the wrongdoer, but only the criminal case can result in sanctions like fines or jail time.

As the personal representative of your loved one’s estate, you can potentially recover damages in a wrongful death case to include expenses for the funeral and burial, medical treatment, and estate administration. Additionally, you may pursue compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering before they passed away.

You can also seek damages on behalf of your loved one’s family and other beneficiaries, such as:

  • Present and future income loss or loss of financial support
  • Companionship loss for children or parents
  • Loss of consortium for the surviving spouse
  • Medical and funeral expenses

How Do I Know If I Have a Valid Wrongful Death Case?

While you may feel sure that your loved one died through the fault of someone else, you should still contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Hiring a lawyer is the best way to determine whether your wrongful death case is legitimate and likely to be successful in getting your family the compensation it deserves. Remember that the statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuit filing in Pennsylvania requires you to file a lawsuit or settle your claim within two years after your loved one has passed away.

May, May & Zimmerman is Here for Lancaster County Families Facing Wrongful Death

As we continue to expand our personal injury law practice, May, May & Zimmerman’s John H. May has been able to achieve multiple million dollar recoveries in wrongful death and personal injury cases on behalf of our clients. The firm’s ability to help our neighbors and their families with even more complex legal issues continues to expand, as well. You may know us as some of the most capable probate and estates attorneys in the region—but our litigation team is ready to step in and guide you through an untimely and tragic loss, as well. Fill out our web form now to begin the conversation about your potential wrongful death or other personal injury cases.


This blog is being published for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a basic understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By entering this site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. This site should never be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

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