Nothing is more devastating than the death of a loved one, particularly when the loss comes before his or her time. The loss can be all-encompassing, ranging from large funeral and medical bills, to the loss of financial support, to the loss of the deceased’s guidance and companionship.
Pennsylvania's Wrongful Death Act, which can be found at 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8301, provides important rights for a loved one or the personal representative of the deceased's estate to recover damages, just like in a negligence case. The purpose of the Wrongful Death Statute is to compensate the decedent's survivors for the pecuniary losses they have sustained as a result of the decedent's death including the value of the services the victim would have rendered to his or her family if he or she had lived. A wrongful death action does not compensate the victim; rather, it compensates the survivors for damages which they have sustained as a result of the decedent's death. Under the Wrongful Death Act the widow or family is entitled, in addition to costs, to compensation for the loss of the contributions decedent would have made for such items as shelter, food, clothing, medical care, education, entertainment, gifts and recreation. Here is the text of the statute as it has appeared since 1995:
(a) General rule. An action may be brought, under procedures prescribed by general rules, to recover damages for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another if no recovery for the same damages claimed in the wrongful death action was obtained by the injured individual during his lifetime and any prior actions for the same injuries are consolidated with the wrongful death claim so as to avoid a duplicate recovery.
(b) Beneficiaries. Except as provided in subsection (d), the right of action created by this section shall exist only for the benefit of the spouse, children or parents of the deceased, whether or not citizens or residents of this Commonwealth or elsewhere. The damages recovered shall be distributed to the beneficiaries in the proportion they would take the personal estate of the decedent in the case of intestacy and without liability to creditors of the deceased person under the statutes of this Commonwealth.
(c) Special damages. In an action brought under subsection (a), the plaintiff shall be entitled to recover, in addition to other damages, damages for reasonable hospital, nursing, medical, funeral expenses and expenses of administration necessitated by reason of injuries causing death.
(d) Action by personal representative. If no person is eligible to recover damages under subsection (b), the personal representative of the deceased may bring an action to recover damages for reasonable hospital, nursing, medical, funeral expenses and expenses of administration necessitated by reason of injuries causing death.
Obviously, the litigation of a PA wrongful death claim is detailed and challenging. If you believe that you have lost a family member due to the negligence or fault of another, you owe it to yourself to contact the injury attorneys at Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C. to learn your legal rights.
Even if your loved one passed away at work, you may have important rights to fatal claim benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation laws. We can help you to make the right choices, can guide you through the probate and estate administration process, and can protect your rights through the pursuit of insurance claims and any litigation that may become necessary. We are dedicated to providing caring and compassionate service, and our initial consultation for any injury claim is free. Please click here now to contact the wrongful death lawyers at Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C.. We welcome the opportunity to answer your questions, and to help you through this difficult time.
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