How Do Wrongful Death Cases Work?


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It is hard enough to lose a loved one, but when the negligence of someone else caused the death, it can be even more devastating. When there is a wrongful death, many loved ones want to seek justice on behalf of the deceased, but it can be overwhelming when they consider the legal proceedings ahead of them.

While there isn’t any amount of compensation that can make up for losing a loved one, working with a supportive and experienced attorney to seek damages may help families deal with the financial burdens caused by the death.

Wrongful death lawsuits can be lengthy and complicated, each unique to the circumstances of the specific case. However, there are some aspects of wrongful death cases that are the same across the board. How wrongful death is defined, what types of cases are considered wrongful deaths, who can file this type of lawsuit on behalf of a loved one, and for what types of damages, are some of those aspects.

How Is Wrongful Death Defined?

Wrongful death is defined as a death that was caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or an intentionally harmful act of another. In some cases, wrongful death lawsuits are filed in addition to criminal cases, depending on the specific situation related to the death.

In most cases, the actions that are responsible for the death have to be the same as those used to prove any other type of personal injury case – the same aspects that would have to be established if the deceased person had not died and could bring suit on their own. Essentially, a wrongful death suit is one in which the injured party isn’t available to file their own lawsuit, so someone must do so on their behalf.

When Are Claims Considered To Be Wrongful Death Cases?

A wrongful death claim applies when a personal injury situation occurs, and the injured person dies as a result – either due to negligence or an intentional harmful act on the part of the defendant. This can happen in a variety of circumstances, including:

  • When a victim is killed intentionally. When a murder is committed, the defendant can be sued for wrongful death separately from any criminal case brought against them.
  • When a victim dies due to medical malpractice. If a doctor misdiagnosed a condition, or was negligent in the level of care provided, and the patient died as a result, then a wrongful death claim can be made against the doctor.
  • When a victim dies as the result of a car accident involving negligence. If a person dies due to an accident that was another person’s fault, a wrongful death claim may be filed.
  • When a victim dies as the result of a defective product. When someone dies due to a faulty or malfunctioning product, it may be considered a wrongful death case.
  • When a victim dies as a result of premises liability. When hazardous conditions exist on a property, and those conditions cause injuries that result in death, a wrongful death claim may be made against the property owner or manager.

The above are only a few examples illustrating how personal injury cases can become wrongful death lawsuits. Generally speaking, a wrongful death claim can arise any time a personal injury occurs, and the victim dies.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In Pennsylvania, wrongful death claims have to be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. Typically, personal representatives are assigned in the deceased’s will. If there isn’t a will, the court will step in and appoint a personal representative.

While the personal representative is the individual who files a wrongful death claim, they are filing it on behalf of the estate’s beneficiaries. In Pennsylvania, the beneficiaries are limited to the “real parties in interest,” including the spouse, parents, or children of the deceased person, whether they live in the state or elsewhere. That means that extended family, such as aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc., are not permitted to act.

In cases where the personal representative fails to file a wrongful death suit within six months of the death, any of the beneficiaries may file on behalf of the whole group.

What Damages May Be Sought In Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

In a wrongful death case, the defendant may be required to pay damages to the deceased person’s estate that include: 

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Hospital and medical bills
  • Estate administration costs
  • Lost salary and benefits – typically these damages include future earnings that the individual would have earned should they have lived
  • Compensation for the loss of comfort that the deceased person provided includes the provision of physical comforts and services as well as moral support, comfort, and guidance
  • Compensation for pain and suffering

How To Find Help For Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Wrongful death lawsuits are often very complicated and may take a long time to settle or litigate. You need an experienced, compassionate wrongful death attorney to represent you and your family. At Ross Feller Casey, we have experienced wrongful death attorneys who have won these types of cases for families just like yours. While a financial recovery cannot account for the pain of losing a loved one, easing the financial burden of their death can be a great comfort for your family’s future.

Let our team of attorneys help you with your wrongful death case. We handle these cases on a contingency basis, which means you don’t have to come up with any upfront fees; you only pay when we win or settle your case. Contact the offices of Ross Feller Casey for your free case evaluation today.

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.