Wrongful deaths are tragedies, and surviving family members have to deal with legal intricacies, insurance claims, estate administration, and various other concerns while also processing their grief. This is a difficult time for the surviving family members, and one of the best things people in these situations can do is to consult with a local wrongful death lawyer. A lawyer at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. can help guide the claims process and field some legal concerns surrounding the death.
What is a wrongful death lawsuit?
A wrongful death is a death caused by another’s intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct. The family members of the deceased are allowed to file a wrongful death claim for damages against the responsible party. The lawsuit is filed by the “beneficiaries” of a victim’s estate. Under Pennsylvania law, these “beneficiaries” include the spouse, children, and parents. Wrongful death claims are usually filed against companies, hospitals, and other entities whose negligent conduct caused the death. Sometimes wrongful death claims can be filed against individuals whose misconduct caused death.
The difference between personal injury and wrongful death claims.
When a person suffers an injury due to another party’s negligence, the injured party can sue the negligent party for compensation for their damages through a personal injury lawsuit. When a negligent party inadvertently causes a fatal accident, the deceased’s surviving loved ones need to pursue a wrongful death claim to secure damages instead of a typical personal injury lawsuit. Claims for personal injury and wrongful death have many similarities. Both claims are based upon the theory of negligence- a duty was owed, that duty was breached, and damage resulted from the breach. The difference between the two is determined by who has the ability to bring an action forward and the areas that compensation may be awarded for. A personal injury claim is based upon an injury that occurs to an individual. A typical personal injury case requires the injured party to received medical treatment for a period of time to address the injuries received. Upon completion of treatment, medical records are gathered and a demand is made on the negligent party for compensation for the injuries sustained. In a wrongful death claim, as the title suggests, the injured party is now deceased. Although medical treatment may have been provided to the deceased for a period of time, future treatment is no longer an issue. The demand is based upon 1) lost wages; 2) medical treatment and 3) funeral expenses.
What to prove in a wrongful death case?
In order to bring a valid action for wrongful death, the one element that must be present is that, as a result of another’s actions, a person has lost their life. Next, you must show that someone else’s negligence caused the action which resulted in the person’s death, or intentional conduct to cause the harm and injury to the victim. Once the act (death) and causation (negligence or intentional act) is identified, who has legal standing to bring an action forward must be identified. It must be demonstrated that there are survivors (family members who have suffered monetary damages and who are wholly dependent on the support of the deceased to live) who exist and have a legal interest in obtaining damages as a result of the decedent’s death. A personal representative must then be appointed to establish an estate for the deceased, identify all survivors, and identify any other economic obligations the estate may have as a result of the death of the decedent. Once those elements have been established, a claim can be initiated.