How Are Wrongful Death Damages Calculated In Pennsylvania?

How Are Wrongful Death Damages Calculated In Pennsylvania?

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While no amount of money can account for the loss of a loved one, receiving compensation for a wrongful death can help ease the financial burden families often feel due to the loss. In Pennsylvania, there are specific types of damages that can be recovered in wrongful death cases, some that are fairly straightforward and some that are much more complicated.

What Damages Are Awarded In Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

In wrongful death lawsuits in Pennsylvania, three categories of damages may be awarded to a victim’s beneficiaries, and they are as follows:

  • Economic damages – These damages have a specific value and are capable of being calculated precisely. They include the value of the monetary contributions the deceased person would have made to survivors had they not died.
  • Non-economic damages – These damages do not have a specific monetary value and are not easily quantified. For example, pain and suffering falls under the non-economic damages category.
  • Punitive damages – These damages are not awarded in many wrongful death cases. They are meant to be a punishment to defendants for egregious or intentional behavior that caused the victim’s death.

What Are Wrongful Death Economic Damages?

In a wrongful death claim, economic damages include:

  • Medical expenses relating to the death
  • Funeral and burial expenses due to the death
  • Loss of the victim’s expected future earnings
  • Loss of victim’s benefits, including medical coverage or pension plans
  • Loss of an inheritance caused by the death
  • Value of the goods and services that the victim would have provided

What Are Wrongful Death Non-Economic Damages?

The non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim include:

  • Loss of protection, care, advice, guidance, training, and nurturing from the victim
  • Loss of companionship and love from the victim
  • Loss of consortium from a deceased spouse
  • Compensation for the emotional distress or pain and suffering of the survivors

Non-economic damages are often more valuable than economic damages, even though they are less tangible.

What Constitutes Emotional Distress In A Wrongful Death Case?

Emotional distress, sometimes called pain and suffering, damages are meant to compensate the victim’s surviving beneficiaries for the psychological effect the death has on their daily lives. The list of indicators of emotional distress is long, and there is no hard and fast definition. On the list, you will see symptoms like anxiety, fear, sleep problems, depression, and other psychological issues. These issues may be considered compensable by the court, but it isn’t cut and dried. What is considered emotional distress for one person may not be for another.

Emotional distress, which falls under non-economic damages, doesn’t have specific bills on which a monetary value can be easily placed. However, if a family member is diagnosed with a psychological condition resulting from the wrongful death, like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, or other emotional condition, it is important to retain documentation of the expenses sought for treatment of those conditions. Bills that are associated with such treatment may be included in the overall emotional damages that are awarded to the victim’s survivors.

How Are Wrongful Death Damages Distributed?

In Pennsylvania, the courts distribute the damages to wrongful death beneficiaries as follows:

  • When there is a surviving spouse, but no surviving children or parents – all damages go to the spouse.
  • When there are a surviving spouse and surviving children – the spouse receives the first $30,000 and half of the remaining damages, and the remaining half will be equally divided between the children.
  • When there is a surviving spouse and a surviving parent, but no surviving children – the spouse receives the first $30,000 and half of the remaining settlement, the remaining half will go to the surviving parent or be split between two surviving parents.
  • When there are surviving children, but no surviving spouse – all damages go to the children, to be divided equally amongst them.
  • When there are surviving parents, but no surviving spouse or children – damages will be divided equally between the parents.
  • When there is no surviving spouse, parents, or children – damages will be divided by the court and distributed to more distant relatives like siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.

Ross Feller Casey Attorneys Can Help With Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Calculating the damages in wrongful death lawsuits is typically a complicated process that requires the help of an experienced attorney who will sometimes need to hire expert witnesses. For example, an economist or vocational specialist may be used to help determine the victim’s probable future earnings. Experts may also be needed to determine the value of services that the victim would have provided to surviving family members if they hadn’t died.

At Ross Feller Casey, we can provide you with that. Our experienced wrongful death attorneys are knowledgeable about all types of wrongful death claims, and we have the resources to obtain expert witnesses to help advance your case. Our attorneys have a long track record of winning record-setting, multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements in cases involving wrongful death.

If you have lost a loved one due to negligence in the state of Pennsylvania, please contact our office for your free case evaluation.

All wrongful death claims are handled on a contingency basis, so you will not be charged anything until a financial recovery is made.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.