When someone dies in an accident caused by the negligence or misconduct of another, surviving loved ones are typically able to bring a wrongful death claim against the guilty party. Medical errors, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, workplace accidents, truck accidents and accidents caused by defective or dangerous products can all lead to wrongful death litigation. These lawsuits seek compensation for lost earnings, pain and suffering, funeral costs and other financial losses. Wrongful death cases are not limited to individuals; companies and governmental entities can also be found liable for causing an accidental death.
Some states allow life partners, common law spouses, distant family members or unrelated parties who suffer financial loss to file for wrongful death. However, the group that most commonly files for wrongful death is the decedent’s next of kin. In Pennsylvania, this is limited to immediate family members such as spouses, children or parents.
The decedent’s next of kin can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against individuals, companies, certain governmental agencies and employees. Many wrongful death cases extend far beyond the party directly responsible for the death and can include anyone or any group even remotely related to the case. Certain government agencies and officials have federal immunity to protect against wrongful death lawsuits.
Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Survivors suing for wrongful death compensation can seek economic, non-economic and punitive damages. Lost wages, lost benefits, lost inheritance and any expenses related to medical treatment or funeral costs are considered economic damages, while non-economic damages include payouts for the emotional trauma of the survivors. If the death was caused by something more intentional than negligence, plaintiffs can file for punitive damages. Depending on the state, some plaintiffs may also recover interest on the awarded amount as well as court costs and attorney’s fees.
The amount awarded for wrongful death varies greatly by state and even by claim. It can be difficult to assign a dollar figure to the decedent, especially when calculating their non-economic value to their family. In most cases, both the plaintiffs and the defendants may hire an actuary or an economist to give a valuation of the losses.
Time Limits for Filing
Like most civil suits, there is a statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. While some states have exceptions, most wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years from the date of the incident. Pennsylvania law allows next of kin two years from the time of death to file. Minor children have two years after they come of age to file for the wrongful death of a parent. Other exceptions apply for mentally handicapped individuals.
Philadelphia Wrongful Death Lawyers Provide Affordable Legal Representation for Surviving Family Members
Because wrongful death claims are full of complexity, it is important to partner with the right legal firm for advice and representation. As your cost conscious Philadelphia wrongful death lawyers at Geoffrey B. Gompers & Associates, we can help you navigate the legal complications surrounding your wrongful death claim. Our offices are conveniently located in Center City Philadelphia and Voorhees, New Jersey and we assist clients throughout both states. Call us to set up your free consultation at 215-567-6600 or contact us online.