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The basis for a death claim in Pennsylvania

On Behalf of | Oct 1, 2021 | Wrongful Death

Losing a loved one due to negligence in Pennsylvania is often devastating financially as well as emotionally. Individuals may bring an action that recovers damages for the death of a loved one due to negligence, neglect or unlawful violence. Claims may result from a car accident, collision with a big truck, medical malpractice or virtually any type of negligence.

Who can file a wrongful death claim and for what damages?

The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated provide for two separate causes of action.

First, the personal representative of the Estate of a person who is killed instantly or who is injured and later dies from his or her injuries can file what is commonly known s a Survival Action (42 Pa.C.S.A. 8302). The action belongs to the Estate. Such a person may not have assets that we commonly know as an estate, but the personal representative gets appointed by the Register of Wills, regardless of whether there is a will, to conduct the action which may produce an asset.

The damages recoverable in the Survival Action of the estate can be lost earnings, net lost earning capacity, and general damages for pain, suffering and inconvenience between the time of injury and death. This action is also available to collect medical expenses that the decedent or his estate would be obligated to pay.

Second, certain beneficiaries of a decedent may file what is commonly known as a Wrongful Death Action (42. Pa. C.S.A. 8301). The beneficiaries include only a parent, spouse or child. The recovery is distributed, regardless of whether the decedent had a will, according to the Intestate Law (20 Pa. C.S.A §2101) which provides how distribution is made depending upon who survives the decedent.

The damages recoverable in a Wrongful Death Action include any financial contributions expected to have been made by the decedent in the future to the beneficiaries who are entitled to recover, plu8s general damages to be determined by the factfinder or jury for the loss of love, affection, companionship, solace, comfort, protection, services, assistance, guidance, tutelage, and moral upbringing of children, and the loss of emotional stability.

What is the trial period for filing a death claim?

Even if a person is injured and the injuries cause their death long thereafter, the limitations period for filing both the Survival Action and Wrongful Death Action claims are within two (2) years of the date of death. No such death claims can be filed later than two (2) years after the death despite any lack of knowledge by the survivors of the manner or cause of death. The two (2) year period is provided to investigate all aspects of the death which might be necessary to make this claim.