September 25, 2015

To first understand who can benefit from filing a wrongful death claim, it is important to know what actually constitutes a wrongful death. The legislature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania considers a wrongful death as the premature death of an individual caused by the wrongful or neglectful act of another. Perhaps a good example of this would be a drunk driver causing an accident which results in the death of another motorist. Another example could be a charter fishing boat captain who failed to properly maintain lifesaving equipment which later resulted in the drowning of a boat passenger.

As a general rule, the right to bring an action for a wrongful death in Pennsylvania is extended only for the benefit of the decedent’s spouse, children or their parents. This right of action is preserved by any of the above-mentioned surviving family members regardless of whether they reside in Pennsylvania.

Additionally, any damages recovered in a wrongful death suit brought by the decedent’s family members must be distributed amongst them just as if the decedent had died without forming a will. Those damages are also untouchable by creditors to whom the decedent owed money while still alive.

This particular right of action for wrongful death also entitles the decedent’s family to recover special damages for costs and expenses they would not have incurred but for the wrongful death event. These special damages can include things such as the funeral expenses, medical related costs and other administrative type expenditures related to the accident which resulted in death.

Pennsylvania residents suffering the wrongful death of their family member should know that they have certain rights under the laws of the Commonwealth. Although no amount of money can ever replace their loved ones, a wrongful death claim may help to diminish the sudden financial strain placed on them by such an unforeseen event.

Source: Pennsylvania General Assembly, “Chapter 83, Subchapter A, Section 8301 Death Action” Sep. 24, 2014