If you or your family have been deprived of a loved one
through misconduct or other wrongful means, our firm can
find justice in an unfair and often unforgivable
What is "wrongful death?"
essence behind a wrongful death lawsuit is that the
wrongful death, in addition to injuring the person who
died, also injured people who depended upon the deceased
for financial or emotional support. Pennsylvania
provides that a wrongful death action may be brought to
cover damages for the death of an individual
"caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful
violence or negligence of another."
How did wrongful death actions come to pass?
common law (rules applicable to the government which do
not rest for their authority upon any express or
positive statute but upon statements of principles found
in the decisions of the courts), no action could be
instituted to recover damages for the death of another.
The right to bring such actions was conferred by a
statute in 1851 which provided that an action for death
caused by unlawful violence could be instituted if the
decedent had not filed an action to recover damages
while living. That statute served as a precursor to
Pennsylvania's modern Wrongful Death Act.
Who can sue for wrongful death?
Pennsylvania, the wrongful death action exists only for
the benefit of the spouse, children or parents of the
deceased, whether or not those individuals are citizens
or residents of the Commonwealth or live elsewhere.
Thus, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, etc. of a
decedent have no cause of action under Pennsylvania's
Wrongful Death Act.
What kind of damages can be recovered?
damages recoverable in a wrongful death action include,
but are not limited to, the present value of the
services that the deceased would have rendered to the
family had he or she survived, as well as the damages
for reasonable hospital, nursing, medical and funeral
expenses as well as expenses of administration
necessitated by reason of injuries causing death. Also,
the rights of survivors in wrongful death actions are
affixed at the time of death. The remarriage of a spouse
may not be considered in the assessment of damages.
How are future damages calculated?
states have adopted life expectancy tables for use in
calculating future losses. It is common to take the
decedent's earnings at the time of his or her death and
calculate the remaining years until retirement or
expected death to figure future loss of earnings. Life
expectancy tables are also used to calculate loss of
benefits, such as the amount of pension benefits that
would have been available had the victim lived.
How are damages distributed in a wrongful death action?
law provides that the damages recovered are distributed
to the beneficiaries in this proportion: They would take
the personal estate of the decedent in the case of
intestacy and without liability to creditors of the
What is the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful
Pennsylvania, wrongful death actions must be commenced
with two years of death.
What is the difference between "wrongful
death" and a "survival action?"
previously stated, wrongful death is a cause of action
meant to compensate individuals who have lost a spouse,
child or parent. A survival action, unlike a wrongful
death action, is not a new cause of action but merely a
continuation of the right of action which accrued to the
deceased during his or her lifetime.
The major differences are as follows:
survival action must be filed by the personal
representative of the decedent. A wrongful death action
is usually initiated by the personal representative but
may in certain situations be filed by a beneficiary.
survival action is for the benefit of the decedent's
estate. A wrongful death action benefits family members
named in the statute who can prove a pecuniary loss.
a survival action, the amount recovered becomes a part
of the decedent's estate subject to the claims of
creditors. By statute, the beneficiaries of a wrongful
death action recover personally, free from the claims of
the decedent's creditors.
recovered in a survival action are subject to state
inheritance tax. Sums recovered in wrongful death
actions are not subject to state inheritance tax.
What damages are recoverable in a survival action?
damages recoverable in a survival action are pain and
suffering (unless, of course, death is instantaneous),
medical care, and loss of earning power from the date of
injury to death and loss of earning power, less personal
maintenance, from the date of death through the
estimated working life of the decedent.