Who Can File for Wrongful Death Cases? | Scartelli
wrongful death cases

Who Can File for Wrongful Death Cases?

Peter Olszewski
Peter Olszewski

There may be nothing worse than the passing of a loved one, but losing them to the negligence of another is one of the worst ways to lose someone. There are no rules on who is considered a loved one, whether it be a spouse, a child, or a friend, but if you lost your loved one in a case of wrongful death, there are rules regarding whether or not you can file a case.

Your first inclination may be to punish the person or entity that led to your loved one’s death by seeking compensation. However, depending on how your relationship with the loved one is legally recognized, you may or may not be able to. If you are unsure if your relationship allows you to file a wrongful death suit, you’ll need the help of a wrongful death attorney.

The attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. have extensive experience getting compensation for people who have suffered personal injuries or the families of those who passed away due to someone’s negligence. We’re here to help you.

What is Considered Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is not a type of personal injury so much as a specific classification. Any type of personal injury can become a wrongful death case if the personal injury leads to death. So truly, wrongful death is when someone’s negligence leads to someone else’s injury, which leads to their death.

Someone does not have to die in a specific time frame to be considered a wrongful death. The person who died can die months after suffering their injuries. It’s important to understand that in most cases, the longer it has been from the accident until their death, the harder it will be to prove that the personal injury led to their death. It’s important to always keep a record of your recovery, even if there are no signs of someone passing away.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?

This all leads to the most important question, whether or not you can file a wrongful death case to seek compensation for the death of your loved one. Every state has its own rules, and in Pennsylvania, only people in one of three types of relationships can file a wrongful death suit for a loved one:

  • Surviving spouse: This includes legally married spouses and partners in domestic partnerships. Divorced couples are not included, and estranged spouses or those in the middle of a divorce depend on the viewpoint of the overseeing judge.
  • Children: This includes biological children, legally adopted children, and unknown illegitimate children. In the case of unknown illegitimate children, they may still legally attempt to file a suit even if the two-year statute of limitations has ended.
  • Parents: Either surviving parents of the deceased may file a lawsuit. Legal guardians may also file a lawsuit, as they will be recognized as the deceased parents in the court of law.

This means that several close loved ones may not file a lawsuit. These include:

  • Unmarried partners
  • Cousins
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Grandparents
  • Unadopted step-children
  • Close friends

In the case of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other unmentioned relatives, they may be able to file a lawsuit if they were the deceased’s legal guardian when they turned 18 years of age. If the deceased’s children are minors, the other parent can sue on their child’s behalf even if they are not married to the deceased.

What if There Are No Eligible Beneficiaries?

If the deceased has no known or available legally valid loved ones to file a lawsuit but declared a personal representative to be in charge of their estate, the representative may file a lawsuit. A personal representative can be anyone. If a person who would normally be ineligible was the deceased’s personal representative, they could then file a lawsuit. They would not be recognized as a loved one, but as the deceased’s estate representative.

The deceased’s estate must follow pre-decided guidelines on dividing compensation if they win the case. If the estate allows for compensation to be distributed to loved ones, they may be. It can happen where the personal representative files and wins a suit for compensation they may never personally receive or use.

What Can You Seek Damages for in Wrongful Death Cases?

When it comes to wrongful death suits, your potential damages are greater than in a typical personal injury case. Compensation can be received for a number of things, including:

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Medical bills
  • Loss of the deceased’s income and work benefits
  • Loss of the deceased’s love, support, and companionship
  • Your pain and suffering
  • Estate administration costs

What Should You Do If Your Loved One Dies From Someone Else’s Negligence?

Take your time to mourn this tremendous loss. Your healing and the healing of other loved ones are what’s most important in this trying time. What you need to do is focus on making sure you are able to go through your day-to-day.

Once you are ready, or if you find you cannot without the compensation your loved one brought in, contact Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. Our attorneys can discuss your legal options, determine who you can file a wrongful death suit against, and prepare to fight for the compensation you deserve. We’re here for you. Contact us today.

Peter Olszewski
Peter Olszewski

Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr., a shareholder and managing partner at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., brings 37 years of litigation experience. He is a renowned trial lawyer in Pennsylvania, specializing in medical malpractice, personal injury, and criminal defense. Peter's notable achievements include securing multi-million-dollar verdicts and serving as District Attorney and Judge. He is committed to community involvement and is actively engaged in various legal associations.
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