Our Philadelphia Wrongful Death Lawyers file claims against parties who cause others’ wrongful deaths. Pennsylvania’s wrongful death law allows certain family members to recover damages for losses caused by a loved one’s death. These family members may include a decedent’s:
- adult or minor children, and / or
The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate generally institutes a Pennsylvania wrongful death action on behalf of family members to whom the law may entitle wrongful death damages. If the personal representative has not filed a wrongful death action within 6 months of the decedent’s death, any of the family members entitled to recover wrongful death damages may file the lawsuit.
Wrongful Death Damages
Family members may receive compensation for the financial and other support their deceased family member would have provided if the death had not occurred in wrongful death suits commenced by Philadelphia wrongful death lawyers. The award may cover the value of:
- housing and medical care
- food and clothing
- gifts and education
- services generally provided by a parent
- the deceased person’s companionship, comfort, moral support, and love
Family members may also receive damages for expenses paid by the survivors, such as funeral expenses and medical expenses related to the injury that led to the decedent’s death.
Pennsylvania wrongful death damages are distributed to the family members according to the state’s laws of intestacy. This means that the damages will be divided among the family members in the same manner that a deceased person’s assets are divided among the heirs when the person died without leaving a Will.
Because the damages are awarded directly to the family members, they are not part of the decedent’s estate and do not pass through probate. For this reason, a wrongful death award is not subject to state inheritance tax or federal estate tax and cannot be used to satisfy any of the estate’s debts. These damages will also not be taxed as income to the family members who receive them.
Pennsylvania Survival Actions
Wrongful death suits filed by our Philadelphia Wrongful Death Attorneys may also include Survival Actions. A survival action is a legal claim that the decedent could have brought against the same defendants named in a wrongful death action if the decedent had not died from the injuries caused by the defendants’ wrongful acts. (If the decedent had already filed such a claim prior to death and the lawsuit was still pending when the decedent died, the claim may be converted to a Survival Action and continued after the decedent’s death.)
The personal representative of the decedent’s estate is the only person who may bring a Pennsylvania survival action. The deceased person’s estate (as represented by the personal representative) takes the decedent’s place as the plaintiff in these actions.
Survival Action Damages
A wrongful death suit compensates the deceased person’s family members for the losses suffered by the family members as a result of the decedent’s death. In contrast, a survival action compensates for the damages (losses) that the decedent suffered as a result of the injury that led to his or her death.
Survival action damages awards will depend upon the unique injuries and related damages suffered by the particular individual. Damages that may be recovered in survival actions include:
- the pain and suffering endured by the decedent between the decedent’s injury and death
- the decedent’s loss of income between the injury and death
- related medical and other expenses paid by the decedent prior to death
- other damages that resulted from the decedent’s initial injury that were suffered by the decedent between the injury and death
Because the estate takes the place of the decedent in a survival action, a damages award goes directly to the estate and becomes part of the estate’s assets. The award may be used to satisfy the estate’s debts and may be subject to state inheritance tax and federal estate tax.
The personal representative may then distribute whatever remains of a survival action award according to the terms of the decedent’s Will. If the decedent did not leave a Will, the administrator will distribute the remainder of the award according to the laws of intestacy.
The law does not allow duplicate damages in wrongful death and survival actions. When plaintiffs bring both claims in the same lawsuit, the total award is divided between the wrongful death and survival action claims and the proceeds distributed according to the rules applicable to each claim.