Negligent or wrongful conduct sometimes causes the unthinkable – the death of a loved one. For the benefit of the survivors, Pennsylvania statute allows a “right of action” to recover damages for the death of a family member. Pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8301(a), a wrongful death action is a claim “to recover damages for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.”
Who may bring an action for wrongful death in Pennsylvania?
With some exception, a wrongful death action may only be brought by the spouse, children or parents of the deceased. An individual that qualifies under the statute may bring an action whether or not he or she is a citizen or resident of the state of Pennsylvania. As to the exception, if the deceased person had no spouse, children, or living parents, “the personal representative of the deceased may bring an action to recover damages for reasonable hospital, nursing, medical, funeral expenses and expenses of administration necessitated by reason of injuries causing death.” 42 Pa. C.S. A. § 8301(d).
What damages are available in a wrongful death action in Pennsylvania?
Wrongful death damages are designed to compensate survivors for pecuniary or economic loss from the deprivation of the decedent’s contribution. Such damages are based on the economic loss suffered by the statutory beneficiaries measured from their standpoint, rather than that of the deceased. At Powell Law, we help our clients accurately identify, and ultimately recover, all damages to which they are legally entitled in wrongful death matters.
Pecuniary loss is defined as the destruction of a reasonable expectation of pecuniary advantage from the decedent. It is based upon reasonably continuous past conduct rather than conjecture. For such a loss to be considered reasonable, the conduct must be sufficiently frequent that it fosters an expectation of continuance.
Thus, pecuniary loss may be education, gifts, food, clothing, and other services. The latter may be in the form of guidance, tutelage, and moral upbringing up to the time such services would have been provided had death not occurred. In addition to these losses, eligible plaintiffs are entitled to recover damages for reasonable hospital, nursing, medical, and funeral expenses, as well as expenses of administration necessitated by the injuries which caused death.
Under §8301(c), these damages are distributed to the beneficiaries in the same proportion that they would receive an intestate share of the decedent’s estate. Beneficiaries also take this distribution free from any claims of creditors of the decedent’s estate.
What is the statute of limitations for a Pennsylvania wrongful death action?
42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5524(2) mandates that an action for wrongful death must be filed within two years of the death of the decedent. The two year period begins to run “from the time the cause of action accrued . . .” 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5502(a).
If you live in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding area and have suffered the loss of a loved one due to an accident, product defect, or incident of medical malpractice, you may have a potential wrongful death claim. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE.