Understanding Wrongful Death and Survival Damages in Pennsylvania

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No one is prepared to deal with the loss of a loved one under tragic circumstances. Soon after the loss, survivors may be also faced with ongoing emotional pain and financial hardship.

That is why a basic understanding of the legal term “wrongful death”, and seeking the advice of an experienced attorney in wrongful death cases is so vitally important.

Under Pennsylvania law, an individual can file a lawsuit if someone causes a loved one’s death through negligence, a wrongful act or illegal violence. There are many different types of actions that can result in wrongful death. Examples of potential wrongful death claims include medical negligence resulting in a patient’s death, negligent driving causing a person’s death in an automobile accident, or a shooting that results in an individual’s death.

When there is a wrongful death, a victim’s heirs may be able file a lawsuit that requests both wrongful death damages and survival damages. Under the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, a deceased individual’s spouse, children and/ or parents can recover damages for lost companionship and financial support in addition to reasonable hospital expenses, nursing costs, medical expenses, funeral expenses and administrative costs resulting from the injuries that caused death. The spouse, children and parents of the deceased individual will receive a share of the wrongful death damages according to Pennsylvania intestacy laws. This means that the victim’s heirs will receive their share of the wrongful death proceeds following the same legal guidelines as if there was no will. It does not matter if the decedent actually had a will.

Although damages in a wrongful death action are divided according to intestacy laws, it is not necessary to open a probate estate to determine all of the victim’s assets and disburse the funds. The surviving spouse, children and/or parents will receive the proceeds directly. Also, the proceeds are not taxable because they are not considered to be income to the beneficiaries.

Survival Actions

In a survival action, heirs can recover damages that the decedent would have if he or she had survived. This may include damages for the deceased individual’s pain and suffering and lost wages. Proceeds received in a survival action are administered through probate—the process by which a will is proved to be valid. A personal representative distributes the proceeds according to the deceased individual’s will, or according to the Pennsylvania intestate succession laws if there is no will.

Unlike wrongful death, in a survival action, damages are taxed. The personal representative for the decedent’s estate is required to pay estate and inheritance taxes. Also, the estate’s creditors can be paid from the proceeds. After paying the estate taxes and creditors, the personal representative can disburse the remaining proceeds to the decedent’s heirs.

There is another extremely important point to keep in mind. In order to recover damages in a wrongful death or survival action, the family or personal representative must file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the decedent’s injury. Family members who believe that a loved one has died due to the negligence, wrongful act or illegal violence of another person—wrongful death—should contact an attorney as soon as possible in order to recover damages. It could turn out to be one of the most important calls they ever make.

Get Legal Help

If you or someone you know are the survivors of someone who has died due to negligence in a wrongful death, it is best to speak with a knowledgeable attorney who can evaluate your case and determine your potential damages. Contact the Pennsylvania and New Jersey wrongful death attorneys at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C., today for a free initial consultation. There is no attorney fee unless we get results for you.

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It takes a specific mindset, specialized skills and substantial resources. The types of cases we handle are not the average personal injury. They involve severe, permanent injuries to people that radically affect their lives forever, or in some instances, even cause their death.