When you lose a loved one due to someone else’s mistake or negligence, money is probably not the first thing on your mind. The grief can be overwhelming and made even worse by the unfairness of losing a family member before their time. However, when you are ready, it is important to address the legal issues created by your loved one’s passing. Your family may suffer loss of income, the need to pay for additional childcare, funeral expenses, and other financial costs that you may not be able to foresee at this difficult time.
One key to understanding the possible ways that you may be compensated is to distinguish between the two types of claims you can make against the defendant: a wrongful death claim, which compensates survivors for their loss, and a survivor claim, which is the claim that the deceased would have been able to make against the negligent party had they survived. Sections 8301 and 8302 of the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act distinguish between these two actions and govern their use by surviving family members.
Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania
Immediate family members of a deceased person are entitled to collect damages when a neglectful, violent, or other wrongful act causes their death. Many types of loss may be financially compensated under this part of the law. There is a financial loss incurred given the loss of income that would have been contributed to the family by the deceased over the course of the rest of his or her natural life. When a person sustains fatal injuries, they may still incur hospital bills prior to their death which surviving family members could subsequently be held responsible for; of course, funeral expenses will also be necessitated.
Dependent children may now be left without a parent, and they will feel the loss for a lifetime. Their immediate needs will also be compromised, and they may require companionship, guidance, and even the services of a nanny or babysitter. Under the law, surviving family members are also entitled to be compensated for the loss of companionship that resulted from the death of their loved one, although it is difficult to assign a dollar amount to this loss.
A Wrongful Death Claim may be brought by immediate family members of the deceased: spouses, dependent children, and in some cases, dependent parents. The advantage of the Wrongful Death Claim portion of the law is that the bereaved family members are entitled to receive any funds awarded directly, without being subject to taxes or the probate process. This award is not subject to any debts that may be outstanding after the deceased’s passing; it is made strictly to aid in the many ways that the family will suffer due to the loss of an immediate family member.
Survival Claims in Pennsylvania
As distinguished from the Wrongful Death claim, Pennsylvania’s Survival Claim is handled the way a personal injury claim would have been had the injured person survived their ordeal. In essence, it is a personal injury claim that is filed on behalf of the deceased person by their estate. Pain and suffering and loss of earning power are examples of ways that the deceased person’s estate can be compensated.
Proceeds from a Survival Claim pass through the estate of the deceased and are subject to the instructions of his or her will (or to the laws governing intestacy should the person have died without a will). These monies may be applied to outstanding debts and are subject to state and federal taxation.
Financial Implications of Both Types of Wrongful Death Claims
When both types of wrongful death claims apply, the Court will allocate a portion of the total award to the Wrongful Death and Survival Claims as warranted. For instance, an injured person who lived for two weeks before passing would receive more compensation for pain and suffering than one who died at the scene of a car accident. A family with three young children who lost a mother due to another’s negligence may receive greater compensation on the Wrongful Death side as they will now have to function as a family without the emotional and financial support of a parent. When children are involved, they are due half of the Survival Claim less $30,000 which is immediately distributed to the surviving parent.
Donaghue & Labrum
At Donaghue & Labrum, we understand that nothing can bring back a loved one. However, the financial losses that you experience following a wrongful death can further distress an already devastating situation. That’s why our lawyers leave no stone unturned when it comes to pursuing compensation for family members of wrongful death victims.
Many families do not realize that they can receive compensation when a loved one does not survive malpractice, a car accident, or is the victim of an act of violence. You are due compensation for the many ways that your life will be altered because of another’s negligence or deliberate malfeasance.
Because of our decades of experience, we know how to maximize your compensation, shielding as much of the award as possible from taxation and giving you and your family the best possible financial position from which to rebuild your lives. Call Donaghue & Labrum for a free evaluation of your wrongful death claim today.