Do You Qualify to Receive Damages for the Wrongful Death of a Loved One?
Mar 21, 2018 - Wrongful Death
Have you lost a loved one due to the conduct (negligence, recklessness, intentional acts) of another person or entity? Pennsylvania law may give you the right to recover damages pursuant to a wrongful death claim, but it’s important to note that you must be a qualified beneficiary — in accordance with Pennsylvania statutory law — to be eligible to receive wrongful death damages.
So, do you qualify?
Before you can determine your status as a qualified beneficiary, it’s worth considering whether you have a wrongful death claim to begin with. Let’s take a look at the fundamentals of a wrongful death claim.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
The regulations governing wrongful death claims are enshrined in section 8301 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. Essentially, a wrongful death claim is an action brought to recover damages for the losses sustained by surviving beneficiaries of the deceased, so long as the death was caused by the wrongful acts or negligence of another.
Suppose that someone’s parents die in an unexpected car accident.
If the car accident did not involve anyone else (there were poor weather conditions and the car slipped off the rode and collided with a tree), the child of the deceased parents would not be entitled to recover damages for losses stemming from their death.
Now, if the car accident was caused by another driver who was operating their vehicle while intoxicated, then the child of the deceased parents would likely have a wrongful death claim against the defendant.
Wrongful death claims can cause confusion, sometimes, but they are surprisingly straightforward.
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to allow the surviving beneficiaries of the deceased to recover damages for the losses they sustained as a result of the death. For example, if you lose your spouse, you may suffer significant emotional, social, and financial damages. You might lose out on significant financial support from your spouse, as well as companionship, love and affection, guidance, and more. A wrongful death action gives you the opportunity to recover “your” damages.
Eligibility to Receive Compensation for Wrongful Death
In Pennsylvania, not everyone is eligible to sue and recover compensation pursuant to a wrongful death action. Statutory law provides a right of action to specific beneficiaries related to the deceased: the spouse, children, and parents — in that order.
Of course, eligibility for wrongful death recovery can get tricky when there are no qualified beneficiaries. There are shocking accidents which result in the death of a couple (and their parents/children). Alternatively, the deceased may simply not have living parents, or a spouse/children. In those cases, the default laws of intestate succession apply.
Pennsylvania intestate succession distributes the damages recovered in a wrongful death action to the remaining beneficiaries. Without a spouse, parents, or children, intestate succession laws would allow the siblings (and their children) to recover wrongful death damages. Without siblings, the grandparents could recover wrongful death damages. Without living grandparents, the uncles and aunts (and their children) could recover wrongful death damages. Finally, if nobody is left, the state will collect damages.
Get Connected to an Allentown Wrongful Death Attorney for a Free Consultation Today
Here at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC, we understand that — following the death of your loved one — you may be feeling overwhelmed. Wrongful death plaintiffs often struggle with having to balance the grieving process with the need to pursue litigation and recover the damages that they are owed by the defendant. If you wait too long and avoid litigation, you and your family may be left without significant financial resources, and could be put in an even more vulnerable position.
We can help.
Our attorneys have over three decades of experience litigating wrongful death claims on behalf of those who have lost a loved one to the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another person (or entity). We are committed to providing personalized legal representation, and from the very beginning of the consultation and litigation process, we work closely with clients to ensure that our goals are aligned throughout. This approach has earned us significant wins in Pennsylvania courts — in recent years, for example, we secured a $2 million wrongful death verdict in Lehigh County.
Call (888) 777-7098 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Allentown wrongful death attorney here at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC.