Central Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Attorneys
REPRESENTING CLIENTS IN LANCASTER & YORK
When a beloved family member dies due to another’s negligence, no amount of compensation seems adequate or just. But a successful claim filed in accordance with Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Act or Survival Act can provide survivors with the financial peace of mind they need.
The accomplished attorneys at Hagelgans & Veronis understand the challenges faced by families after a wrongful death, and we have an extensive record of success helping survivors recover fair compensation and move ahead with their lives. Please call 877-454-8529 to schedule your free consultation with one of our knowledgeable, compassionate wrongful death lawyers; we are proud to represent clients from Lancaster, York and throughout central Pennsylvania.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death laws allow surviving family members and other beneficiaries to seek compensation when a person dies due to the negligent, reckless or deliberately harmful actions of another individual or entity.
Wrongful death cases are common in the aftermath of fatal motor vehicle crashes, including:
Wrongful death claims may also be pursued as a result of premises liability issues, defective consumer products, dangerous prescription medications, medical errors, and other circumstances. Each state has its own wrongful death laws, which differ widely in establishing who can pursue claims and the timeframe—or statute of limitations—in which they must do so.
Wrongful Death Claims vs. Survival Claims
In Pennsylvania, there are two statutes that allow for the recovery of damages related to an accidental death caused by negligence, deliberate violence or other wrongful act: the Wrongful Death Act and the Survival Act.
Under the Wrongful Death Act, the spouse, children or parents of the deceased can seek damages associated with the death. If there are no immediate surviving beneficiaries, a personal representative of the decedent may file a claim to recover medical costs, funeral expenses and other limited damages.
Under the Survival Act, the cause of legal action arises from the injuries that led to death rather the death itself. While wrongful death claims are intended to aid surviving beneficiaries, survival claims are brought by an administrator of the decedent’s estate to recover losses to the estate; the estate is essentially substituted for the decedent, and the administrator may be an executor appointed by the decedent prior to death or a court-approved representative.
Damages in Wrongful Death and Survival Actions
The purpose of the Wrongful Death Act is to compensate a decedent’s survivors for economic losses they suffered as a result of the death. Wrongful death damages may include money for:
- Medical expenses, including hospital and nursing costs
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of services, society and comfort
- Los of services to children
Noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, may not be sought in wrongful death claims. However, compensation for pain and suffering may be recoverable through survival actions.
In survival actions, the recovery of damages is based on the rights of action possessed by the decedent at the time of death (for example, survival claims do not allow the recovery of funeral and burial expenses because the decedent could not have brought forth those actions at the time of death). Damages in survival actions may include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering experienced between the incident that caused injury and death
- Loss of gross earning power from the decedent’s date of injury until his or her death
- Loss of earning power, minus personal maintenance expenses, from the decedent’s death through his or her estimated working lifespan
A lawsuit that stems from a wrongful death may invoke both the Wrongful Death Act and the Survival Act, but there cannot be an overlap or duplication of damages. Another important difference between wrongful death claims and survival actions is that wrongful death damages are not subject to inheritance tax laws, but damages recovered under the Survival Act are taxed as inheritance.
Statutes of Limitations
Wrongful death claims and survival actions are civil lawsuits, and like related civil cases such as personal injury claims they are bound by statutes of limitations. A statute of limitations is the timeframe in which a plaintiff must file legal action seeking damages.
Within the first six months following the decedent’s death, the representative of the surviving spouse, children or parents has exclusive rights to file wrongful death claim. After six months, any potential beneficiary entitled to recover damages may bring wrongful death action on behalf of all parties entitled to share in the damages; during this time, the personal representative of any surviving family may still file a claim.
A wrongful death action must be filed within two years of the date of the decedent’s death. Once a wrongful death claim is filed, it bars any further action for wrongful death.
Survival actions are also bound by a two-year statute of limitations, but with a big difference. In survival claims, the statute of limitations timeframe begins on the date of the incident that caused the injuries that ultimately led to death.
Help for You and Your Family
Quality wrongful death attorneys are more than knowledgeable lawyers; they are compassionate human beings who are committed to helping other people through an incredibly difficult time and a challenging legal process.
At Hagelgans & Veronis, our reputation for personal service is backed by more than $200 million in successful settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients. Our wrongful death lawyers can help you relieve some of the stress you’re coping with and take the lead in pursuing the financial security you and your family need to move forward with your lives.
If you lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, please contact Hagelgans & Veronis online or call us at 877-454-8529 to arrange your free consultation with one of our skilled lawyers. With offices in Lancaster, Quarryville, Mount Joy and York, our attorneys are accessible to our neighbors throughout central Pennsylvania.