Wrongful Death Lawsuit - Who Can File?

In most states, “wrongful death” occurs when someone dies due to the intentional action or negligence of another person or company. Title 42, Chapter 83 of the Pennsylvania General Statutes, Section 8301 defines a wrongful death as one that is “caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.” More often than not, the actions that caused the death have to be the same type of actions that support a personal injury claim. 

Here are some statistics from the CDC that show annually mortality rates due to unintentional injury deaths:

  • Number of deaths: 173,040
  • Deaths per 100,000 population: 52.7
  • Cause of death rank: 3

In order to bring a successful wrongful death cause of action, the following elements must be present:

  • The death of a human being
  • Caused by another's negligence, or with intent to cause harm
  • The survival of family members who are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death
  • The appointment of a personal representative for the decedent's estate

A wrongful death claim may arise out of a number of circumstances, such as in the following...

  • Medical malpractice that results in decedent's death
  • Automobile or airplane accident
  • Occupational exposure to hazardous conditions or substances
  • Criminal behavior
  • Death during a supervised activity

Who May File for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in PA?

In Pennsylvania, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate must file the wrongful death claim. While the claim is filed by the personal representative, it is brought to the court on behalf of the deceased person’s estate. Here’s what to keep in mind when filing for a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • In most cases, if the decedent was married, the spouse will file the lawsuit
  • If the decedent in a minor, a parent/legal guardian will often bring the lawsuit
  • If the decedent is a single adult, most adults allow distant family members (i.e., grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles) to file the lawsuit

Now, if the decedent had a will, the court will often appoint an executor or personal representative to administer the estate. Now, in most states, if the court appoints an executor or personal representative, that individual will have the entirety to bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the decedent.

Time Limit to File?

Though there is typically no set deadline to file for a wrongful death lawsuit (as the time begins from the date of the decedent's death), situations vary. If the government or an employee for the government played a role that caused death, you may need to file a “notice of claim” within 90 days. 

Contact Us

Unfortunately, accidents that lead to fatality do happen. If you have questions about a situation involving a wrongful death, reach out to us. It is important to know your rights and get the justice you deserve. If you or a loved one has been victimized to a wrongful death incident, contact our team of attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. for a free consultation today. You can reach us via phone at 570-346-2600. 


Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/accidental-injury.htm

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/wrongful-death-lawsuits-pennsylvania.html

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/who-can-file-wrongful-death-lawsuit.html