Pittsburgh Wrongful Death Attorney
Our Pittsburgh wrongful death lawyers understand that losing a loved one is always difficult. But when another party’s negligent actions take away your loved one far too early, the pain is that much more difficult to process. Wrongful death litigation is designed to compensate families of the deceased for their loss, and give them the resources they need to begin putting the pieces of their lives back together.
Losing a loved one in an accident can put even the strongest of people in a vulnerable position. Not only is there the heartbreak and emotional turmoil present with all familial deaths, there are often serious questions about how the family will carry on without an important financial contributor. This is why you need a skilled Pittsburgh wrongful death lawyer on your side as soon as possible following accidental death – to provide your family with space to grieve while fighting tooth and nail to secure your financial future.
Decades of Experience with Wrongful Death in Pennsylvania
Every wrongful death case is unique. Any dollar amount you might recover in wrongful death litigation depends on the particular circumstances of your case.
Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Act and Survival Act are two statutes that stipulate the kinds of damages that survivors may recover in wrongful death cases. The most important of these include:
- All hospital, medical, funeral, burial, and estate administration expenses.
- Monies to fairly and adequately compensate the family of the deceased for lost contributions to food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and other necessities of life.
- Monies to fairly compensate a surviving father or mother for loss of guidance and moral upbringing in raising their surviving children.
- Monies to compensate survivors for the loss of such intangibles as housework, physical comforts, and companionship.
- Monies to compensate surviving family members for the pain and suffering from losing the loved one.
An unusual provision of Pennsylvania law is that plaintiffs may also be awarded compensation for the conscious pain and suffering that the victim may have suffered between the time of the injury and the time of death.
In Pennsylvania, the personal representative of the deceased may bring a wrongful death case within six months of the death of the decedent. The personal representative is generally the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate. After six months, if the designated personal representative has not yet filed a claim, then any potential beneficiary may do so up to two years following the death of a loved one.
Pennsylvania law is complex, and it takes a Pittsburgh wrongful death attorney with a proven record of success to ensure that receive every penny to which they are entitled.
Types of Wrongful Death
There are innumerable instances that may give rise to Pittsburgh wrongful death claims. If you lost a loved one in an accident and believe that someone else may be at fault their passing, you may have legal grounds for a wrongful death claim. There are four essential elements that inform wrongful death cases in Pennsylvania:
- That the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. For example, a manufacturer of a defective product is required to exercise diligence in creating, testing, and distributing.
- The defendant breached that duty. When an entity’s actions or inactions give rise to an accident, this is called negligence.
- You suffered harm as a result. In the case of wrongful death, the deceased’s loved ones also suffer harm as the result of the defendant’s negligence.
- You incurred damages. Examples of damages in a wrongful death case include the cost of burial or final medical expenses, loss of income, and intangible losses such as loss of partnership and emotional anguish.
When these four elements exist, this lays the foundation for a wrongful death claim. Some of the most common scenarios that lead to such claims include:
- Car accidents. An at-fault driver may be responsible for damages when failure to adhere to the rules of the road leads to your loved one’s death.While insurance many come into play and cover some of the victim’s damages, it is unlikely that the at-fault driver’s insurance will fully cover the extent of the damages in a wrongful death case. This type of wrongful death claim will function very similarly to a personal injury lawsuit.
- Truck accidents. Commercial vehicle operators and owners must follow strict guidelines regarding driver behavior, truck maintenance, and more. Not following these rules can make them liable for any damages that result.Depending on how the accident occurred, the truck driver, the driver’s employer, or a trucking company may face liability for the wrongful death. In some cases, a plaintiff in a wrongful death claim for a truck accident may face multiple defendants.
- Product defects. Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers must exercise reasonable care in the creation and sale of the products we use. If they fail that duty and it leads to your loved one’s death, they may be culpable for the damages you incur.Unlike personal injury claims, product liability claims do not depend on the plaintiff’s ability to prove negligence, instead requiring the plaintiff prove the product in question was indeed defective and the defect caused the death. Some product liability claims may compel the defendant to prove it was not negligent, effectively shifting the burden of proof to the defendants.
- Premise liability claims. If your loved one lost his or her life on someone else’s property, the owner of that property may be responsible. This applies to cases involving negligent security, swimming pool accidents, wrongful deaths on campus, and accidents in school or at daycare.
- Workplace accidents. Employers have a legal duty to ensure their working environments are safe for employees. Some types of work, such as offshore drilling, construction, and refinery work, are inherently more dangerous than other types of work and carry a higher risk of workplace accidents. When an employer’s negligence causes an employee’s death, the surviving family may seek damages against the employer or other parties responsible for the death through a wrongful death claim. Workers’ compensation benefits and the employee’s medical benefits through the employer may offer some financial assistance to the surviving family, but taking legal action is the best way to secure the most compensation possible after a workplace fatality.
Surviving family members must remember that the defendant in a wrongful death claim has bearing on various aspects of the case, especially if the defendant is a government entity or public office. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit against a private individual or company is very different from filing one against a public entity or government agency, and various restrictions are in place for doing so. The plaintiff filing a wrongful death claim against such an entity may face a shorter statute of limitations in which to file, may only receive limited damages, may not be able to take legal action at all due to sovereign immunity, the legal provision that protects government entities from legal action from private citizens.
Do I need a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
Many people who experience a loved one’s wrongful death wonder why they need legal representation when the cause of death appears so obvious. While it’s true some people have successfully managed their own legal claims, this is a very rare occurrence. It’s not advisable to take on any type of legal action without the support and representation from a Pittsburgh accident attorney. Simply put, the average person does not possess the legal training and experience to successfully navigate a wrongful death claim. It’s likely that anyone who attempts to do so will miss valuable avenues of compensation, or worse, may miss filing deadlines or other requirements that may lead a judge to throw the case out before it even reaches trial.
Consulting with an attorney after a wrongful death is a wise choice for several reasons. First, your attorney can advise you as to the merits of your case, and your chances of succeeding with the claim in court. If your case holds water, your attorney will advise you on your next steps for securing the damages you and your family deserve. If your attorney determines that filing a wrongful death claim is not in your best interests, or is not possible due to sovereign immunity or other legal complications, then he or she can advise you of alternative routes of compensation. Depending on the situation, this may include third party claims against other defendants in the case, insurance claims, or public assistance programs.
An attorney is an incredibly valuable asset in any Pennsylvania wrongful death claim. The right attorney will not only ensure the claim meets all of the court’s filing requirements and deadlines but also that it covers the full scope of the plaintiff’s damages.
The Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act
The Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act informs the procedures survivors must follow in the event of a wrongful death action. This law establishes who may file a wrongful death suit, referred to as “beneficiaries.” Under Pennsylvania law, beneficiaries include:
- The parents of a deceased child
- Children of the deceased
- A spouse
Of course, every family situation is different. If you were depending on the deceased financially, you may be able to collect compensation in a wrongful death suit. Anyone who wishes to file a wrongful death action, however, must first establish dependency. The exception is minor children, who are presumed dependent on the deceased. A spouse may also recover damages for loss of love and services rendered by their deceased loved one.
While these beneficiaries may recover damages, only the executor of the deceased estate may file the action itself. This administrator must do so within six months of the death of the decedent. This is a short time in which to act, so if you suspect your loved one lost his or her life due to someone else’s negligence, it’s essential to retain the services of a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
Protecting Your Future | Wrongful Death in Pittsburgh
Our wrongful death lawyers work personally with families struggling through the untimely death of a loved one. Knowing that insurance companies are often quick to offer settlements – hitting families at their most vulnerable – we take great care to protect our clients against these tactics and seek full compensation for damages including:
- Related medical expenses
- End of life and funeral expenses
- Projected future income
- Projected future contributions to family expenses such as tuition and mortgages
- Lost 401K and retirement benefits
- Loss of companionship
- Emotional duress
When working with an experienced legal team, it is possible to get compensation for these and other wrongful death damages, but only if you take action within the first two years following your loved one’s death.
Our Pittsburgh wrongful death lawyers have over five decades of combined experience helping families in Western Pennsylvania get full compensation. We would be honored to meet with you free of charge or obligation to discuss your case, your rights, and the best way to get the justice you are due. Call (412) 338-1000.