The loss of a loved one is always tragic, but it can be even more traumatic if someone else’s reckless behavior caused the death. If you have lost a family member due to someone else’s negligence, you might be entitled to recovery. Although nothing can replace such a loss, a Montgomery County wrongful death lawyer could help the family potentially receive financial compensation.

You may be confused and angry after a death that might have been preventable. Our team of compassionate Montgomery County injury attorneys understands what constitutes a wrongful death and how to assert your family’s right to damages for the loss.

Defining and Proving “Wrongful Death”

Under the 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 8301, the spouse, children, or parents of a decedent may bring a court action for the death of an individual caused by the violence or negligence of someone else. If the decedent had a Will, the executor or personal representative could file the lawsuit on behalf of the estate. If there was no Will, a court could appoint a representative to bring the action. There are two kinds of lawsuits available to families if someone dies as a result of negligence.

Survival Claim

A survival claim is slightly different than a wrongful death action. In a survival claim, the decedent’s personal representative can bring an action on that person’s behalf. In some survival actions, the estate may recover compensation for the deceased’s pain and suffering. An estate has two years from the date of injury or the triggering event to file a survival claim. In a wrongful death action, the estate has two years from the date of death.

Wrongful Death Action

Wrongful death lawsuits reflect the losses of family members. For example, a person might have been the sole financial support of a family, and when they die, that family could be entitled to future relief. A wrongful death attorney in Montgomery County could assess a claim and advocate for appropriate compensation.

Economic damages in a wrongful death case can include many things. The law allows family members to recover medical, funeral, burial, and estate expenses along with economic damages as a result of the loss. A jury will consider the monetary value the decedent brought to the family as well as a loss of companionship, services, and guidance.

How Could Intestate Laws Impact Wrongful Death Recovery?

While the surviving family members could legally have standing to pursue a wrongful death claim, there is a priority order if more than one qualifying family member is alive and available to file suit. In other words, any party with grounds to recover for a wrongful death can only recover what they would have gotten based on state intestacy laws, which generally govern how a deceased person’s estate is divided if they pass away without a will.

For example, if a decedent has a surviving spouse and parent(s) but no surviving children, only their spouse would be able to recover compensation through a wrongful death claim, in accordance with intestate succession laws. However, if a decedent has both a surviving spouse and surviving children, recovery would generally be split evenly between the decedent’s spouse and all the decedent’s children collectively.

Cases of Wrongful Death

Negligence is the failure to meet the standard of care of a reasonable person would under the same circumstances. For instance, if a driver is intoxicated or texting and causes an accident, they would likely be held responsible for any injuries or death resulting from their recklessness. Negligence can also include a person’s failure to do something. Death can occur, for example, if a doctor fails to prescribe the right medication or does not diagnose a disease.

There are many scenarios where death results from another’s negligence or intentionally wrongful act. The most common wrongful death actions involve motor vehicle accidents with cars, trucks, or bikes, for instance. An unlawful death may also occur because of a defective product, explosion, or fall due to an unsafe condition. These unexpected deaths may happen in homes, hotels, trains, or even in the wilderness. In each scenario, an attorney familiar with the wrongful death law in Montgomery County could assess potential negligence and damages.

If the tragedy involves violence, such as a shooting or even a fight that results in death, the family might bring a wrongful death action in civil court in addition to criminal proceedings.

Could Comparative Fault Reduce Available Compensation?

Unfortunately, while it may seem distasteful to assign a deceased person partial or primary responsibility for their own death, Pennsylvania’s modified comparative fault system applies to wrongful death cases just as it does to other personal injury claims. Accordingly, if a court finds that the deceased bore a percentage of fault for the accident that caused their death, their surviving family members would be subject to a proportional reduction in the damages available to them through a wrongful death lawsuit. A qualified wrongful death lawyer in Montgomery County could provide crucial assistance maximizing available recovery by fighting against allegations of comparative negligence made against the victim of a fatal accident.

What Time Limits Apply to Wrongful Death Claims?

Another way in which wrongful death cases work like typical personal injury claims is in the applicable statute of limitations. Under 42 PA Con. Stat. §5524, surviving family members of a fatal accident victim generally have only two years after the date of their loved one’s death in which to file suit. Notably, the effective filing deadline for survival actions is two years after the date a decedent first sustained their ultimately fatal injury, not the date of their death.

Call a Montgomery County Wrongful Death Lawyer for Help

If you believe a family member died as a result of someone’s negligence or failure to act, you can consult with a Montgomery County wrongful death lawyer to explore your legal options. An attorney could analyze the facts, advise you about potential outcomes, and, if appropriate, bring your case to court. In a time of overwhelming grief, a team of advocates could bring some relief and financial repair to a devastating situation.