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Any time a loved one dies it is devastating. When the death happens due to some sort of negligence it is all the more devastating. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one as a result of someone’s negligence you may have a wrongful death cause of action that you can bring.

While it is clear that no amount of money can bring your loved one back, holding the responsible party or parties at fault for the death is important and you should consult with a Southampton wrongful death attorney to understand your rights.  As attorneys that have handled wrongful death cases in Southampton, PA, and throughout the state, we know how important quality representation in a wrongful death case is to surviving family members. 

What is Considered Wrongful Death in Southampton, PA?

Title 42, Chapter 83, Section 8301, of the Pennsylvania General Assembly outlines the definition of wrongful death. According to the law, wrongful death is when a person's unlawful or neglectful actions cause another person's death. Grieving family members should not be penalized financially when neither they nor the deceased are at fault. Through a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving family can attempt to recoup some of the financial burden of their loss to the party responsible for the death.

The most common types of wrongful death cases that occur are a result of:

  • Car crash,
  • Tractor-trailer accident,
  • Motorcycle accident,
  • Bicycle accident,
  • Workplace accident,
  • Medical negligence,
  • Birth injury leading to death

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action Claim in Pennsylvania?

A personal representative of the estate may sue for damages under the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act on behalf of:

  • The spouse of the victim
  • The parents of the victim
  • Minor children of the victim
  • Dependent adult children of the victim

If the personal representative does not file one within six months, generally, any of the above beneficiaries can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Most often, the immediate family suffers the most significant financial loss in the event of a death of a loved one. So, there are provisions in the law to compensate survivors for the loss of these family members. 

In Pennsylvania, wrongful death lawsuits cannot be used to compensate more distant relatives, such as siblings or cousins.

What is a Survival Action Claim in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, survival action is governed by Title 42, Chapter 83, Section 8302, allows a decedent's estate to recover the damages that the deceased could have recovered if they had lived.

Through a survival action, the estate of a deceased person may recover a variety of losses, including:

  • Medical expenses related to the injury suffered
  • Lost wages resulting from the accident up to the time of death
  • Lost future wages that would have been earned by the deceased
  • Expenses incurred by the estate during treatment of the victim's final injuries
  • Compensation for the pain and suffering experienced by the deceased up until the moment of death

Who Can File a Survival Action Claim in Pennsylvania?

A survival action needs to be filed by a personal representative of the Estate, called the administrator/administratrix or executor/executrix. If the personal representative does not file a survival action within six (6) months, generally, any of the beneficiaries can file a survival action lawsuit.

Any beneficiary named in the will, including people who may not be related and/or charities names in the will, are eligible to recover under a survival action in Pennsylvania.

How Is Liability Proven in a Southampton, PA Wrongful Death Case?

A family member of someone who died wrongfully may seek compensation from those legally responsible. Wrongful death lawyers typically prove responsibility by demonstrating the following:

  • The person or persons’ responsible (defendant) owed a duty of care to the deceased: "Duty of care" is a person's obligation not to perform actions or make decisions that will risk injury to others. Depending on the context of their interactions, a person may have a duty of care to another. For instance, drivers on Southampton roads have an obligation not to drive so recklessly as to cause an accident. Similarly, it is the responsibility of Southampton business owners to keep their business premises free from unreasonably dangerous conditions.
  • A person breaches their duty of care: When a person DOES make a decision or take an action that endangers others, it is considered a breach of duty of care.

Examples:

  • Speeding while driving can be an example of a breach of duty of care.
  • When a property owner does not keep his property in good repair can be a breach of their duty of care.
  • The breach led to the death of the victim. The party responsible for breaching a duty of care led to the harm that caused the wrongful death.

How Is the Value of a Southampton, PA Wrongful Death Case Established?

We know that money can never replace your loved one or bring them back. But even though you are grieving the loss of a loved one, it can still be comforting to know that some form of justice has been served against those responsible. It can also give you peace of mind knowing that your family may get some financial reprieve for your loss.

It is a critical part of the job of a Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney to determine what damages the grieving family should receive. An estimation tries to place a dollar value on the loss a family suffers after a tragic death. This calculation considers two types of damages: economic damage like medical expenses, funeral costs, and lost earnings, and non-economic damage, such as pain and suffering or loss of companionship.

To calculate damages in a wrongful death case, a lawyer may consider the following factors:

  • An individual's income at the time of death
  • An individual's age and health when the accident occurred
  • An individual's training in life to attain the position they held at the time of death
  • The loss of future benefits due to the death, such as pensions or vacation time
  • If the deceased suffered conscious pain and suffering caused by an injury that led to their death
  • Identification of the responsible party or parties and extent of negligence, recklessness, or intent

Does My Deceased Loved One's Auto Insurance Policy Provide a Death Benefit?

The answer depends on the type of auto insurance policy your loved one had and how much coverage is provided. Pennsylvania motorists must carry auto insurance, but the death benefit portion is optional.  A Southampton, PA wrongful death lawyer can help you understand the auto insurance coverage your loved one had in place after a car accident that caused their death.

Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in PA If My Spouse Died in an Accident at Work?

The Pennsylvania workers' compensation law covers most workers. Businesses and employers in the Commonwealth are usually required to purchase workers' compensation insurance for their employees. When a workplace accident results in the death of an employee, this policy provides a death benefit to the employee's family members. This death benefit usually replaces the worker's right to sue their employer for wrongful death.

A worker's family may have a right to sue a third party (other than their employer) if their loved one is killed on the job. If your loved one died while on the job it is of utmost importance to have a Southampton, Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney investigate as soon as possible.

When Multiple Family Members Survive the Deceased, How Are Wrongful Death Damages Divided Among Them?

Settlements or jury awards awarded in Pennsylvania for wrongful death are divided as follows:

  • When a spouse is present, the first $30,000 is allocated to them. Any remaining funds are divided between the spouse and children.
  • The award is divided equally between the surviving children if there is no spouse. When there is no spouse or child, all assets are divided among the deceased's parents.

Is My Southampton Wrongful Death Settlement Taxable?

According to IRS Rule, 1.104-1, income from wrongful death settlements and awards is not taxable, except for punitive damages. It should be noted, however, that survivor action awards are taxable if they include wages that would have been taxable if the decedent survived. We always recommend consulting with a tax professional for more information on your potential tax implications.

The Benefits of Hiring a Southampton Wrongful Death Lawyer

When someone loses a loved one, they are devastated and deal with immense grief. The last thing most people can handle is dealing with the wrongful death claims process. You need a qualified set of eyes to help guide you through the process so that all of your questions can be answered, and your rights protected.

When tragedy strikes, you need legal representation to protect your rights and make sure you understand what's happening. A Southampton, PA wrongful death lawyer will work to ensure you do not agree to an unfair settlement by rushing you and your claim.

A wrongful death lawyer will investigate the death of your loved one: which means they will find out what went wrong, who is responsible, and how their actions resulted in the death of your loved one. Finding out what compensation you may be truly owed may take some time, but it will ultimately benefit you and your family. As a result, you will know that justice was served and that the people or persons who are responsible for your loved one’s death are held accountable.

Contact Our Compassionate & Aggressive Wrongful Death Lawyers in Southampton for a Free Consultation

When someone you love dies due to someone else's negligence, there should be accountability. The Southampton wrongful death lawyers at KaplunMarx have decades of experience successfully helping the families of wrongful death accident victims.

Surviving family members can be physically and emotionally exhausted after a wrongful death claim. At this time, we know that your family needs to feel secure. It is our aim to provide you with compassionate and aggressive legal representation for you and your family during this challenging time.

If you have lost a loved one due to wrongful death, our team is available 24/7 to talk to you about your case. You can easily get started by filling out a free case evaluation form or by calling (215) 550-1522.

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