What do you need to prove in a wrongful death case in Pennsylvania?
In order to recover monetary damages in an action for wrongful death, plaintiff
must prove that the death was caused by violence or negligence of another
and that no action for arising out of the same situation was brought by
decedent during his or her lifetime. In addition, before there can be
any recovery at all in damages for the negligent death of a relative,
there must be a pecuniary loss which has been defined to be a destruction
of a reasonable expectation of pecuniary advantage from deceased.
The family members of the deceased may recover expenses in conjunction
with hospital, nursing, medical and funeral expenses, and all such items
as intended to cover only such expenses as were immediately attendant
upon, and related to, decedent's injuries and death. In addition, the
family members are entitled to receive loss of earnings during decedent's
life expectancy in a specified amount. It means that the surviving spouse,
child or parent may be entitled to compensation for probable earning capacity
of the decedent during his/her lifetime. Computing the loss of earnings
depends on the decedent's expected age, business habits, past earnings
and place of employment, as well as the amount of earnings allegedly devoted
to the maintenance of the wife and children. The amount of financial compensation
available to the family depends of the proper estimation of the damages,
including the loss of the expected earning power of the decedent. It is
a complicated procedure and the family needs to hire an experienced Pennsylvania
wrongful death attorney to receive the highest compensation available
under the law.
If your parent, spouse or a child has died as a result of a negligent or
violent act of another, contact the Lassen Law Firm as soon as possible
to discuss your legal rights. If you wait too long to contact an attorney,
your right to sue may be timely barred. The Pennsylvania statute of limitations
is two years for personal injury cases. It means that personal injury
lawsuits must be filed within two years from the date a cause of action
accrues. Generally, in wrongful death cases, a cause of action accrues
at the time of death.
There are, however, several
exceptions to the general rule.
Our Pennsylvania civil litigation attorneys at the Lassen Law Firm will
evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case to determine whether
an exception to the general statute of limitations is applicable in your
case. For example, one of the exceptions to Pennsylvania two-year statute
of limitations is discovery rule. Discovery rule, which provides that
statute of limitations runs from time of actual discovery, or time when
discovery of injury was reasonably possible, may apply to toll running
of statute of limitations for wrongful death in those instances when plaintiff
cannot reasonably be expected to be aware of injury or of its cause.
Who may sue for Wrongful Death in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Statute: The Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act provides that the right to sue exists
only for the: surviving spouse, child, parent, guardian, or personal representative
of the deceased individual. The Lassen Law Firm can help you become the
personal representative, the person appointed by the state to represent
the beneficiaries. Brothers, sisters and cousins of the decedent don't
have the right to file a lawsuit unless they have been named as the legal
guardian or personal representative of the decedent.
Once people have lost their loved ones as a result of wrongful death, they
may feel helpless. It is hard enough for people to deal with their traumatic
loss, let alone the financial difficulties that are often associated with
most wrongful deaths. Thankfully, personal injury law allows survivors
of wrongful death victims to seek monetary damages for the loss of their
Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Damages
We pursue all available damages under Pennsylvania law. The Lassen Law
Firm only deducts a small 25% for all wrongful death cases, thus, you
will get maximum compensation.
Pennsylvania law defines wrongful death as death resulting from a wrongful
act of another, usually negligence or violence. The decedent's spouse,
child, parent or personal representative may recover compensation by filing
a lawsuit against the responsible parties. Wrongful death actions are
subject to the Pennsylvania statute of limitations which means that the
family member has a certain time period during which he/she may bring
a this action.
Who Can Bring A Wrongful Death Action In Pennsylvania?
The decedent's spouse, children, parents or personal representative may
bring a wrongful death action in Pennsylvania. For example:
- Spouses of decedents who died in a fatal airplane crash brought wrongful
death actions against the airplane manufacturer and the airline;
- A widower whose wife died in a car accident brought a wrongful death action
against the driver responsible for the collision;
- A parent of a girl who was struck by a train in Pennsylvania brought a
wrongful death action against the train operator;
- A hotel had a duty to provide safe premises, for purpose of Pennsylvania
wrongful death action brought by relatives of the deceased (who died as
a result of an altercation on the hotel's parking lot) against the hotel
alleging failure to provide lighting and security sufficient to maintain
reasonable and safe premises;
- Wives of decedents who died as a result of being exposed to asbestos, brought
a wrongful death action against the company employing the decedents;
- The mother of a 14-year-old bicyclist who died when he was struck by a
car, brought a wrongful death action against the driver;
- A child, who was not yet born at time of father's death in an automobile
accident, was nevertheless entitled to recover damages under Wrongful
Death Act; under the Act, which incorporates the rules of descent, the
child had to be treated as if born before his father's death;
- A cause of action may be maintained under the Wrongful Death Act on behalf
of a seven-week-old, non-viable fetus for injuries allegedly received
while in the womb even though the child was not born alive;
- Right of recovery existed under Wrongful Death Act on behalf of a stillborn
child who died as result of injuries received en ventre sa mere (literally,
in his mother's belly);
- Under Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, a mother of a deceased workman was
entitled to damages for the loss of the financial support, which she had
been receiving from her son.
Who Are the Responsible Parties in Wrongful Death Cases?
Wrongful death action may be filed against those whose negligence caused
the death. An experienced Pennsylvania wrongful death lawyer will help
identify those whose negligence or violence was the cause of death.
The responsible parties in wrongful death cases in Pennsylvania may include:
- Hospital blood bank employees who administered wrong type of blood which
caused death of a patient;
- Employer of a remodeling workman who died when scaffolding in the workplace
- The city and traffic control company responsible for the traffic accident;
- An employer of an independent contractor who failed to warn of a dangerous
condition on the premises;
- A steel company that knew or should have known of visibility problems attending
the plant operations; the steel company was held liable, when the decedent
was killed as result of his machine falling off the edge of pile at night,
for its failure to take the special precaution of providing artificial lighting;
- The proprietor of an ice plant who for eight years knew that young children
trespassed on strip of his land between sidewalk and building, and who
created a dangerous condition by keeping on sloping platform on such strip
an unfastened heavy cylinder which any reasonably prudent person would
expect to harm playing children by rolling off at a slightest jar, and
risk of which young children could not be expected to realize, was negligent
and liable for death of a trespassing child who was struck by cylinder
which rolled off platform;
- A truck company whose driver was negligently operating the company's truck
when it collided with the decedent's truck and caused the decedent's death;
- A physician who failed to timely diagnose a wife's breast cancer and was
liable under the Wrongful Death Act in the husband's wrongful death action;
- A trolley company whose employee was driving a trolley in a negligent manner
and killed a decedent;
- The manufacturer of a metal tower was responsible for death of an employee
who was fatally injured as a result of a fall from the metal tower;
- The manufacturer of a helicopter that crashed and caused the decedent's
death was liable for breach of warranties in the manufacture of a helicopter;
Survival Action in Pennsylvania
Survival actions are lawsuits brought by a decedent's estate (as if the
decedent had lived), and are based on claims involving torts to property
or torts resulting in personal injury. Under Pennsylvania law, if a person
is injured by the act of another, a cause of action may accrue to the
injured person. His or death does not remove the cause of action; it survives
the death of the injured person and continues in the decedent's personal
representative. The damages recoverable are measured by the pecuniary
loss occasioned to the injured person, and therefore to his or her estate,
by the negligent act which caused death. Survival action is separate and
distinct from wrongful death action.
The difference between the wrongful death and survival actions is as follows:
In a survival action, the personal representative of the decedent is substituted
for the decedent. The recovery obtained depends on the rights of action
which the decedent possessed at the time of his/her death and, as in a
personal injury action, amounts to the damages that the decedent himself/herself
sustained. In a wrongful death cause of action, recovery depends on the
rights of action that the beneficiaries, as named by statute, possess.
Moreover, recovery in a wrongful death action amounts to the pecuniary
loss suffered by the beneficiaries by being deprived of the part of the
decedent's earnings they would have received had the decedent lived. Thus,
a survival action seeks to compensate for different damages than does
an action for wrongful death.
Measure of damages awarded in a survival action includes the decedent's
pain and suffering, loss of gross earning power from date of injury until
death, and loss of his earning power less personal maintenance expenses,
from the time of death through his estimated working life span. The recovery
obtained in a Pennsylvania survival action depends on the causes of action
the decedent possessed at the time of death and, as in a personal injury
action, amounts to the damages that decedent himself or herself sustained.
Thus, the estate may recover lost earnings, medical expenses, and pain
and suffering before death.
Net lost earnings are decided by first calculating the total amount of
the decedent's gross earnings, including the fringe benefits, between
the date of death and the expected working life span, and deducting from
this amount the amount of monetary contributions [he] [she] would have
made to [his] [her] family during this period and the amount of money
that the decedent would have spent on [himself] [herself] for [his] [her]
personal maintenance during this period. The probable cost of personal
maintenance includes only the necessary and economical living expenses,
such as food, shelter, and clothing, that the decedent would have been
required to spend in order to maintain life during this period.
Pain and suffering damages constitute an amount that will fairly and adequately
compensate for the mental and physical pain, suffering, and inconvenience
and loss of life's pleasures that the decedent endured from the moment of
[his] [her] injury to the moment of [his] [her] death as a result of this accident.
However, the decedent's pain and suffering damages are not recoverable
in every survival action under Pennsylvania law. Where the decedent is
unconscious for the entire period between the time of injury and the time
of death, there can be no recovery for pain and suffering in a survival
action. Also, where the decedent is killed instantaneously, there can
be no recovery for pain and suffering in a survival action. Usually survival
actions and wrongful death actions are combined in a single suit to avoid
Why You Need to Hire a Survival Action Attorney
In survival actions, the amount of compensation the decedent's estate will
receive depends on the proper estimation of all damages allowed under
the Survival Act. With the help of an experienced Pennsylvania survival
action attorney, the decedent's estate may recover high compensation.
At the Lassen Law Firm, our Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys have
handed many survival and wrongful death actions. Most of the survival
actions settled before going to trial to the great satisfaction of our
clients who did not have to litigate their survival action cases for many
years. The Lassen Law Firm offers zealous representation to those who
seek financial compensation in survival actions. If you have lost a loved
one due to a wrongful act of another, contact the Lassen Law Firm to discuss
your right to file a survival action.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations in Survival Actions
Waiting too long can be detrimental to your right to recover, because in
a survival action, statute of limitations begins to run on the date of
injury, as though the decedent were bringing his or her own lawsuit. The
statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is two years for personal injury
cases. In some situations, however, it may be tolled. Thus, under discovery
rule, which provides that statute of limitations runs from time of actual
discovery, or time when discovery of injury was reasonably possible, the
decedent's estate may bring a survival action outside of the two-year
limitation if certain requirements are met. In addition, statute of limitations
may be tolled under the fraudulent concealment doctrine, which applies
when the liable parties had a duty to disclose a fact, but concealed it.
Survival Action Cases Pennsylvania
Survival actions are lawsuits filed by the decedent's estate to recover
damages. In Pennsylvania, wrongful death and survival actions are often
combined in one lawsuit. Damages recoverable in each action, however,
differ. Thus, under a survival action, pain and suffering damages are
available. The following are examples of survival actions brought in Pennsylvania
under the Survival Act.
- The estate of a painter who earned $25.00 per hour and had life expectancy
of 45 years and contributed all of his earnings to his family, recovered
an award of over $171, 000 in a survival action.
- A widow brought a survival action against the manufacturers and suppliers
of asbestos products because her husband's death had been caused by an
occupational exposure to asbestos fibers and dust during his employment.
- An award of $178,000 was recovered by the decedent's estate in a survival
action where the decedent earned $25,000 per year salary, owned 35-acre
farm, and was in excellent health.
- Under Pennsylvania Survival Act, plaintiff was entitled to recover for
a minor decedent's estate the present worth of the excess of decedent's
future earnings over the cost of his maintenance.
- In suit to recover for wrongful death of a ten-year-old boy who fell down
an elevator shaft, a jury returned a verdict of $59,000 to the child's
estate under the survival action; the minor decedent's estate recovered
the present worth of the excess of decedent's future earnings over the
cost of his maintenance.
- A husband recovered in a survival action for medical malpractice following
his wife's death due to the late diagnosis of breast cancer.
- The estate of the decedent who died two days after he was stabbed on the
defendant's premises recovered pain and suffering damages in a survival
action brought against a motel and its owners for negligence in serving
liquor to the visibly intoxicated decedent.
- The decedent's estate brought a survival action alleging international
resort Sandals' negligence rendering decedent quadriplegic and causing
his untimely death, recovered $6.5 million. The pain and suffering damages
for the decedent's 250 days of pain and suffering as quadriplegic until
his death amounted to $1 million.
- A jury awarded $54,000 in a survival action brought by the father of an
8 -year-old decedent. The father had to prove what the decedent's earning
power would have been had he lived.
- The administratix of the estate brought a survival action and recovered
$50,000 for pecuniary loss resulting from the decedent's injuries, pain,
suffering, and loss of life in addition to funeral and administration
expenses of $1520. The decedent's estate was entitled to include a claim
for loss of earning power during the decedent's normal life expectancy
because no wrongful death action was filed, so there was no duplicate recovery.
- A widow of the decedent who died a week after a tuck crash occurring when
the truck he was driving collided with a tractor trailer on a major highway,
brought a survival action and recovered pain and suffering damages.
- The estate of a decedent, who had been in a persistent vegetative state
for 10 months prior to his death, recovered pain and suffering damages
and had to present competent opinion testimony that the decedent could
in fact experience such pain and suffering.
- A widow, the administratrix of the estate of a workman who sustained fatal
burns when downspout he was removing from a building came in contact with
his face, brought a survival action and recovered pain and suffering damages.
- A widow, the administratrix of the estate, recovered in a survival action
pain and suffering her husband suffered prior to his asbestos-related
- Parents of a child who was born prematurely and died, brought a survivor
action and recovered pain and suffering damages.
- Parents of minor children brought survival actions against a property owner
following death of the children who drowned when they fell through ice
on a water-filled hole.
- The estate of the decedent, a child born to an Rh-negative mother, recovered
damages from the physicians who cared for the mother and who had a duty
to protect the future child against effects of Rh-sensitization.
- Administrator of the deceased child's estate brought a survival action
against the provider of foster care services and its officers and employees
for wrongful death when the 4 year-old decedent was left alone near an
open pool, fell in it and drowned.
- Administrator of the estate of the decedent, who slipped, fell, hit his
head on the deck and died aboard a cruise ship, brought a survival action
against the company which organized the cruise.
If you have recently lost a loved one due to negligence or violence of
another, you may not have the strength now to deal with the complex and
time-consuming procedure of obtaining compensation. Our experienced attorneys
at the Lassen Law Firm are here to help. We will listen to you carefully,
evaluate your case and advise you about your rights to sue. Call the Lassen
Law Firm today to see how we can help.