Examples of Wrongful Death Cases in Philadelphia

examples of wrongful death casesThe State of Pennsylvania protects families who lose a loved one due to another person’s negligence in much the same way as it provides options in personal injury cases.

The loss of a loved one can have devastating consequences to the surviving family members.

However, there are some significant differences in the legal approach under Pennsylvania wrongful death claims and survival actions regarding how surviving loved ones can recover compensation.

To help you better understand these cases and your rights as a family member of a deceased victim, it may be useful to review the legal landscape and some examples of wrongful death cases.

Overview of Wrongful Death Cases in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law provides that two separate claims can be filed to recover damages as a result of an accident that causes death. These claims are a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Claim.

The damages each claim seeks to recover differ.

A wrongful death and survival action share many characteristics with a personal injury claim, except that the victim passed away as a result of an accident.

The wrongful death action is brought on behalf of the surviving spouse, children and/or parents of the deceased victim.

The survival action is brought on behalf of the estate of the deceased victim. Still, there must be someone to stand in the shoes of the victim and seek compensation for the related losses.

Under Pennsylvania law, the deceased’s personal representative is the individual with “standing” to file a claim.

Most often, this person is named in the will or approved by the court. The personal representative acts on behalf of the estate and surviving spouse, children, and/or parents to seek to recover damages.

Wrongful Death Action

The damages recoverable include the following:

  • Estate administration expenses;
  • Funeral and burial expenses;
  • Hospital and medical expenses;
  • Decedent’s contribution to the support of his/her family between the date of the trial and the end of his/her life expectancy;
  • The monetary value of the services, society and comfort decedent would have given to his/her family had he/she lived including the provision of household services, society, and comfort;
  • Compensation to surviving children for loss of decedent’s services, including guidance, tutelage and moral upbringing up to the time such services would have been provided had death not occurred; and
  • Decedent’s contributions to his/her family (spouse, children or parents) for their loss of any contributions they would have received from the date of death to date of trial, including all money decedent would have spent for or given to his/her family for items such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, gifts, entertainment and recreation.

In a Survival claim, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is substituted for the decedent. The Survival Action is the statutory right of the decedent’s estate to bring an action for those claims that the decedent had during his or her lifetime.

Survival Action

The damages recoverable in a Survival Action include the following:

  • Decedent’s mental and physical pain, suffering and inconvenience and loss of life’s pleasures from the time of accident/event to the time of his/her death as a result of the accident/event;
  • Decedent’s total earnings between the time of accident/event and her/his death;
  • Decedent’s lost past net earnings between the date of his/her death and the date of trial
  • (Decedent’s gross earnings, including fringe benefits, between the date of his/her death and date of trial minus the amount of monetary contributions he/she would have made to his/her family, as calculated under wrongful death damages, and minus decedent’s personal maintenance (probable cost of his/her necessary and economical living expenses necessary to sustain life during this period); and
  • Decedent’s total lost future net earning power capacity between the date of trial and the end of his/her life expectancy-i.e., decedent’s net earnings over his/her life expectancy
  • (Decedent’s gross earnings between the date of trial minus the amount of monetary contributions he/she would have made his/her family during this period as calculated under wrongful death damages, and minus decedent’s personal maintenance (probable cost of his/her necessary and economical living expenses required to sustain life during this period).

Examples of Wrongful Death Cases

The circumstances giving rise to a claim for wrongful death are largely similar to those allowing an injured victim to sue for damages.

Negligence is often the reason behind most fatal accidents or incidents, even though the exact facts may vary. If you have standing, you may be entitled to seek compensation for some of the most common causes, which include the following:

Car Accidents

According to the 2017 Traffic Facts and Statistics, published by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), there were 1,137 people killed in auto crashes. Though this figure is a decrease from 1,188 deceased victims in 2016, the number is still disturbing. Car accidents may be caused by:

  • Speeding;
  • Improper lane change;
  • Drunk driving;
  • Reckless driving;
  • Other violations of traffic laws;
  • Texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving; and,
  • Many other careless acts.

Truck Collisions

The same PennDOT report reveals that 155 people died in serious truck crashes in 2017. Though these incidents are caused by many of the same types of negligence as other motor vehicle collisions, there are additional factors involved with these extremely large, heavy vehicles. When a truck operator follows too closely, fails to properly maintain the vehicle, or does not ensure safe loading of cargo, deadly accidents can result.

Motorcycle Crashes

Almost 200 motorcycle riders lost their lives in crashes during 2017. These incidents also share some common features with auto crashes, and yet are unique. One of the biggest threats to motorcyclists is that they are not as visible to other motorists.

Traffic Incidents Involving Pedestrians and Bicycle Riders

Even though they may not be in a motorized vehicle, people on foot or bike are still at risk of being involved in a traffic-related crash. The size disparity and lack of protective barrier often lead to fatal accidents. In 2017, 171 people were killed in pedestrian and bicycle accidents in Pennsylvania.

Dangerous Conditions on Property

In Pennsylvania, property owners have a duty to keep the premises safe for those who enter upon it.

If they do not comply with this legal obligation, their breach of duty can be fatal.

Defective Products

Though the theory of liability is substantially different, manufacturers and other entities in the supply chain can be held accountable if they place a defective product in the hands of consumers which causes fatal injuries.

Medical Malpractice

You trust your doctors and local hospitals to provide quality and responsible medical care. It is disturbing to think that healthcare providers sometimes make mistakes. It is devastating to lose a loved one due to medical mistakes/malpractice.

Workplace Accidents

On-the-job injuries are common in some industries, and certain types of accidents, unfortunately, can even be deadly. Though Pennsylvania law does protect families through workers’ compensation laws, sometimes these work-related accidents are caused by the negligence of a third party. In those instances, a wrongful death claim can be made in addition to a claim for workers’ compensation.

Consult with a Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Attorney About Your Rights

These are just a few examples of wrongful death cases that may entitle you, as a family member, to seek legal remedies. If you would like to hear more about your options, please contact PhillyLaw at 215-515-2050 or email at info@phillylaw.com to schedule a free consultation.

We will be happy to review your specific circumstances and explain how wrongful death cases work in Pennsylvania.

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