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Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Law, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When a loved one unexpectedly dies as the result of someone else’s negligence in Pennsylvania, you may be too grief-stricken to even consider how to take legal action against them. However, bills for funeral expenses and medical treatment could pile up and add more stress to your family. If you believe you have a wrongful death claim on your hands, it’s important to get the financial support you need. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding wrongful death claims.
1. What is considered a wrongful death?
A wrongful death occurs when an innocent person loses their life in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness.
2. Who can file a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death claim can be filed by the victim’s surviving family members or dependents, including the spouse, children and even parents.
3. How long do I have to file a wrongful death claim?
In Pennsylvania, you have two years from the day of the death to file a wrongful death claim. If you fail to file a claim within the statute of limitations, the court will dismiss your claim (unless there is a good legal justification for your inaction).
4. What kind of damages can be recovered in a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death claim is intended to compensate a decedent’s family for the economic losses caused by their death. Damages can include the present value of services the deceased would have provided if still alive, as well as funeral, hospital, medical and nursing expenses.
5. How are damages divided?
If the person dies without a will, winnings from a wrongful death claim are distributed according to Pennsylvania’s rules of intestate succession:
- If there is a spouse but no children or parents, the spouse inherits everything.
- If there are children but no spouse, the children inherit everything.
- If there is a spouse and children, the spouse inherits the first $30,000 of the deceased’s intestate property and half of the remaining balance, and the children inherit everything else.
- If there is a spouse and children from another spouse, the spouse inherits half of the deceased’s intestate property and the children inherit everything else.
- If there is a spouse and parents, the spouse inherits the first $30,000 of the deceased’s intestate property and half of the remaining balance, the parents inherit everything else.
- If there are parents but no spouse or children, the parents inherit everything.
- If there are siblings but no spouse, children, or parents, the siblings inherit everything.
6. Should I accept the settlement the insurance company has offered me?
Never accept an offer until an experienced personal injury lawyer has reviewed it. Insurance companies tend to push low-ball offers very quickly on to stop you from getting more money.
7. Do I need an attorney?
If your loved one has been killed in an accident, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can investigate the cause of the accident, collect the evidence you need, talk to insurance adjustors on your behalf, negotiate for more money and help you take a liable party to court. Without a lawyer, it may be tougher to receive full and fair compensation.
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