February 1, 2016

If a family member is injured, he or she may be planning on starting up a personal injury lawsuit, depending on how the injury occurred. For example, if your spouse is injured in a car accident caused by a negligent, reckless driver, the two of you may start planing a lawsuit to recover the financial losses while the person is still getting treatment at the hospital.

What should you do, though, if the person passes away before that lawsuit officially begins?

One option may be to start a wrongful death lawsuit. The key to that suit will be how and why the person passed away.

For instance, if the injuries directly led to the person’s death—perhaps his or her condition worsened over time—then you and other family members do have a right to look into a wrongful death case. A person does not have to die immediately for it to be a wrongful death. There just has to be a clear link from the death back to the incident itself.

One complication, though, is if the person passes away from some unrelated issue, so there is not a link. Then a wrongful death lawsuit may not be appropriate. For example, if the person is injured and being treated but then dies from an unrelated illness or simply from natural causes, a wrongful death suit may not fit.

As you can imagine, this can get complicated, especially if you believe the accident did lead to the eventual cause of death, while the other party believes it was an unrelated death. Establishing that link is crucial, so you need to know everything you can about various types of evidence, the burden of proof, and how everything will play out in a Pennsylvania court.

Source: FIndLaw, “Wrongful Death FAQ,” accessed Feb. 01, 2016