An unexpected death can take a serious toll on the emotional and financial well-being of your family. In addition to the significant emotional distress that accompanies your loss, you may struggle with outstanding medical bills, funeral costs, and the loss of an income stream. An Altoona wrongful death and survival lawyer could be able to help obtain a financial recovery that will ensure stability for your future. If your loved one’s death occurred due to the negligence of another person or entity, you should contact an Altoona personal injury lawyer to seek full compensation.
The Legal Basis for a Wrongful Death Claim
There are many common scenarios that may give rise to a wrongful death claim, including:
- Car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Defective product claims
- Dangerous drug claims
- Premises liability claims
- Medical malpractice cases
To prevail in these cases, the plaintiff must prove that a defendant’s negligence caused the death. An Altoona wrongful death attorney could help to provide more information about the legal basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Separates a Wrongful Death Case from a Typical Personal Injury Case?
Wrongful death cases are similar to other personal injury claims in that who is at fault for the incident must be determined For example, a negligent driver in a truck accident case will be liable, regardless of the extent of the injuries – whether minor or fatal. However, there are special considerations that plaintiffs must keep in mind when pursuing a claim for wrongful death.
There are two types of cases arising from the death of an accident victim. First, wrongful death cases are designed to compensate the decedent’s surviving loved ones for their own losses of companionship, support, and tutelage. Second, survival actions are brought to recover for the decedent’s own damages – such as for conscious pain and suffering prior to death – which are said to survive the death.
One consideration is who may bring the lawsuit. Pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. §8301(b),only a decedent’s personal representative can serve as a plaintiff in wrongful death cases. The proper personal representative will be seeking a recovery to benefit the surviving spouse, children, or parents.
Altoona’s courts apply Pennsylvania law which recognizes a wide variety of available damages in wrongful death cases, including:
- Funeral costs
- Outstanding medical bills
- Costs for the administration of the estate
- Loss of companionship or guidance
Unlike in many other jurisdictions, there is no limit to the amount of damages that a jury may award a grieving family. If a plaintiff can prove damages, a court has the authority to award compensation for those damages. An Altoona wrongful death attorney could help to evaluate a family’s losses and demand full compensation.
Is It Possible to Recover for a Decedent’s Pain and Suffering?
In addition to a wrongful death claim, a deceased accident victim’s surviving family may file what is known as a survival action. Pursuant to 42 P.S. §8302, a survival action allows a decedent’s estate to pursue a decedent’s own claims. This can include conscious pain and suffering which occurred prior to death, as well as for the lost wages that the decedent would have earned. An Altoona wrongful death attorney could further describe whether this type of claim may be appropriate in a given situation.
What if a Decedent Was Partially Negligent Themselves?
Unfortunately, comparative negligence may play a role in wrongful death claims just as it could in other types of personal injury cases. If a court determines that someone involved in a fatal accident was partially negligent, and therefore partially responsible for causing the accident in question, the court may reduce the amount of compensation his or her surviving family members can recover.
Specifically, the court would reduce compensation by the same percentage of fault the decedent bore. For example, if a decedent was 20 percent to blame for a car accident that ultimately resulted in his or her death, his or her surviving family members would be limited to recovering 80 percent of the total damages. Furthermore, if a deceased individual bears a greater degree of fault than the defendant, the court might bar recovery altogether.
How Long Do Plaintiffs Have to File Suit?
Since personal injury law governs wrongful death claims in Altoona, anyone seeking to file such a claim on behalf of a deceased family member must abide by the civil statute of limitations set by state law. According to 42 P.S. §5524, the statutory filing deadline for most wrongful death claims is two years following the date of the decedent’s death.
There are only a few exceptional circumstances under which this deadline would not apply, most of which involve situations where the prospective plaintiff could not reasonably have discovered that negligence played a role in his or her loved one’s death until after he or she passes away. A wrongful death lawyer in Altoona could confirm the applicable deadline in a particular set of circumstances and ensure it does not negatively impact an ensuing claim.
An Altoona Wrongful Death Lawyer Could Help Protect Your Family’s Future
While “being made whole” from the loss of a loved one is impossible from a practical and emotional standpoint, a successful wrongful death and survival claim could provide the monetary compensation needed to support your future.
An Altoona wrongful death lawyer may be able to help you to pursue these claims. An at-fault defendant is responsible for their actions, even if they did not mean to cause any harm. Contact us today to hold negligent actors accountable.