When a person dies as the result of medical malpractice, negligence or wrongful conduct of another person or entity, an attorney can help the surviving family members determine if they have grounds for a wrongful death action. The concept of a life lost as a result of medical malpractice or any other wrongful act forms the basis of damage recovery for the family of the victim.
Wrongful Death Actions
Wrongful death actions compensate the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased for economic impact caused by their death. Recoverable damages include the value of hospital, medical, funeral, burial, and estate administration expenses, the loss of contributions from the decedent for the support of their family, the value of services performed around the home, and the monetary value of the guidance, tutelage and moral upbringing the deceased would have provided to his or her children. Wrongful death action is a new action brought for the purpose of awarding financial compensation to dependent beneficiaries. Such an action is brought separately from any medical malpractice or personal injury claim that was in process prior to the death of the victim.
Wrongful death actions belong to the designated beneficiaries. They are not subject to estate or inheritance taxes, or to the claims of creditors. Damages awarded in a wrongful death action are distributed according to the intestate laws regardless of whether or not the deceased had written a will.
Survival actions compensate the estate for damages sustained by the deceased prior to death. A survival action is not a new cause of action, rather a continuation of the action for the incident that caused the injury that ultimately resulted in wrongful death.
As survival actions belong to the victim’s estate, they are subject to estate and inheritance taxes, and the claims of creditors. The damages in a survival action are distributed according to the decedent’s will if he died testate or according to the intestate laws if he died intestate.
Who can sue for wrongful death?
According to the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, during the first six months after the death, a wrongful death action may be brought only by the personal representative of the deceased. After the first six months following the death, a wrongful death action may also be brought by any person entitled to share in the damages.
Note: The persons entitled to be appointed as personal representative and the order in which they may be appointed is prescribed by statute. The right to maintain an action for wrongful death should not be confused with the right to share in the distribution. The right to share in the distribution is not determinative of the right to bring the action.
Who can receive damages in a wrongful death action?
The Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act states that the only people eligible to receive damages in a wrongful death action are the spouse, children, and parents of the deceased. In addition, in order to be eligible for damages, parents and adult children must be able to demonstrate they’ve sustained a financial loss as a result of the death. Minor children are presumed to be dependent, and may recover the value of the decedent’s support, including amounts of money the decedent would have spent for his or her family for items such as food, shelter, clothing, and recreation. Surviving children are also entitled to recover compensation for the loss of services their deceased parent would have provided in the form of guidance, tutelage, and moral upbringing. Surviving spouses may collect damages based on the loss of financial support , the loss of love and affection, and the loss of the services the deceased partner performed in and around the home.