Losing a loved one is always a difficult process to go through, no matter what the case. But when a family member dies due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, it often causes a whole other range of emotions. Although no amount of compensation can make up for the loss of a loved one, filing a wrongful death claim against the responsible party can ease some of the financial burdens associated with the death.
In a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate must file the claim. However, they do so on behalf of the beneficiaries who are entitled to a share of the settlement. In Pennsylvania, a beneficiary may be a:
There are exceptions to this in certain cases. For example, if the deceased person doesn’t have any surviving spouse, children, or parents, then more distant relatives such as siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins may be able to recover.
A wrongful death claim pertains to circumstances in which someone dies due to the wrongdoing of another person or entity. This can happen in various ways, including:
These are only a few examples that show how wrongful death lawsuits can occur. A wrongful death claim can typically be considered a personal injury situation in which the victim dies.
The first thing your wrongful death attorney will have to establish is that you have a case that qualifies to make a wrongful death claim. This should not take too long. A wrongful death attorney has to prove three things in a lawsuit:
Once an attorney determines that you do, in fact, have a case, they will help you file the lawsuit.
There is a statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits in Pennsylvania of two years. This means that the claim must be filed within two years of the date of death, or the wrongful death suit will almost certainly be barred from being heard in court.
If your loved one was a victim of someone else’s negligence and died as a result, the clock is already ticking on how long you have to make a claim. You must contact an experienced wrongful death attorney to help you with your case without delay.
Every wrongful death case is unique, and what may take only a short time in one case can take much longer in others. Some of the areas that might cause a delay in the wrongful death proceedings include the initial investigation, the discovery process, establishing damages, pre-trial motions, and whether the case settles or goes to trial.
The initial investigation conducted by your wrongful death attorney may take some time. They will have to prove responsibility, and that takes evidence. If the wrongful death was something that was investigated by the police, such as in a car accident, records of the event may be easily attainable. In other cases, it may not be so easy. Your attorney might have to hire an investigator to work on the case, and that could take some time.
Discovery is the part of a case in which the attorneys from both sides have to share the information they have about the case with one another. The information may include requesting documents or other evidence, deposing witnesses in the presence of a court reporter, and asking questions regarding the case in writing. Depending on the amount of discovery, and the cooperation of the attorneys, this phase of the case could move quickly, or it could take a while.
Establishing damages requires the collection of documentation to prove what the surviving family members have lost financially due to their loved one’s death. Things like medical bills and funeral costs are easy to obtain, and the dollar amounts are exact. Other damages, like the loss of future income, isn’t as cut and dry. Sometimes wrongful death attorneys have to consult with financial experts to make that determination. That can cause the case to take longer.
Before a trial, attorneys in wrongful death suits may make any number of pre-trial motions. These motions are made to the court for various reasons. It could be that one side or the other thinks that they should win the case without going to trial, or it could pertain to discovery, or it could simply be questions about the complaint or the answer. Depending on how many pre-trial motions there are, a wrongful death case could take a while.
Wrongful death suits are complicated and often require the knowledge of both legal and medical experts. It is in your best interest to find legal representation to guide and support you through the case. At Ross Feller Casey, we have attorneys and on-staff medical doctors who are able to do that. Our attorneys have proven track records of winning multimillion-dollar wrongful death cases that provide family members with compensation to ease the financial burdens that occurred due to their loved one’s death. They are ready to meet with you for your free case review and to help you proceed with your claim.
All cases are handled on a contingency basis, so you will not have a charge until a financial recovery is made. Please call to speak to one of our wrongful death attorneys 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.