Wrongful Death & Survival Actions
The death of a loved one is always difficult, but it can be even more unbearable when that death was caused by the negligence of another person or entity – whether it was another person, a drunk or distracted driver, a nursing home, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, a corporation, a bar that served a visibly intoxicated person, the owner of a vicious dog, etc. In addition to the normal bereavement, families can be faced with complicated legal questions. An experienced personal injury attorney guides families through such an emotionally challenging time and helps them obtain just compensation for the death of a loved one.
Wrongful Death Claims
In Pennsylvania, family members can recover damages under the Wrongful Death Statute, which compensates them for losses suffered due to their loved one’s death. Such losses include the loss of income that would have been used to support and provide for them and the loss of the services, aid and companionship of the deceased loved one. Such claims are often asserted on behalf of the deceased’s parents or children.
A survival action is a separate claim from the wrongful death claim. It is a claim that the deceased could have asserted if he/she had lived. It includes damages for pain and suffering prior to death, lost earnings and medical expenses incurred for treatment. In order to assert a survival action, an estate must be raised for the deceased. Damages recovered under a survival action go into the estate and are therefore subject to estate and inheritance taxes and any claims against the estate made by creditors. Who inherits from an estate depends on whether there was a will or whether the deceased died intestate (without a will).
Proving damages in wrongful death and survival actions can be challenging and frequently requires an experienced personal injury. Establishing lost lifetime earnings requires working closely with vocational and economics experts and developing the evidence necessary to put a dollar figure on the loss.