Is There a Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in PA?

Close up of a man placing a white rose on a gravestone

Losing a loved one is tragic. It can be even more challenging to cope with grief when someone’s death is caused by carelessness or negligence. If you’ve lost a loved one in an accident, the wrongful death attorneys at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad Law Offices may be able to help you recover compensation for damages. It’s important to act fast, as there are limitations on how long you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania

A statute of limitations sets the maximum amount of time that a claim or lawsuit can be filed after an event occurs. Each state has its own laws, and statutes of limitations also vary depending on the circumstances surrounding a personal injury or wrongful death claim.  

Generally, in Pennsylvania, you have two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death claim. For example, if your loved one was hurt in a car accident but died months later due to their injuries, you would be able to file a wrongful death claim from the date that they passed, not the date that the accident occurred. If the case is against a government entity, deadlines can be much shorter, sometimes within only six months of the death.

Exceptions to the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Exceptions are typically allowed in certain circumstances that “toll” or pause the statute of limitations. In some cases, when the loved ones of the deceased discover the cause of death many months or years later, the wrongful death statute of limitations is paused. If a potential defendant committed fraud or tried to hide the cause of someone’s death, the limit may be paused.

A minor who wants to file a claim for a death that occurred when they were a child must do so within two years of their 18th birthday.

Applying exceptions to statutes of limitations can be tricky. A defendant may even use the fact that the deadline has passed as part of their defense. A knowledgeable wrongful death attorney will thoroughly evaluate your case and give you straightforward advice about whether you will be able to bring a viable claim.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in PA?

There also are limitations on who may bring a wrongful death action in Pennsylvania. The personal representative of the deceased’s estate may bring a wrongful death claim within six months of the death. If the personal representative hasn’t filed a claim after six months, any potential beneficiary may file one up to two years after the death of their loved one.

What Is a Survival Action?

In some cases, a survival action may be filed in addition to a wrongful death claim. It also can be brought as a stand-alone case. In a survival action, the plaintiff can bring the same claims the deceased could have brought if they were still alive, much like a personal injury claim. Damages that may be recovered in a survival action include medical bills, past and future lost wages, and pain and suffering. It’s important to keep in mind that the statute of limitations clock may start ticking for a survival action on the date an accident or injury occurred, not on the date the death occurred.

Survival actions and wrongful death claims are complex. Each case is unique, and a range of circumstances can impact the statute of limitations. That’s why it’s crucial to hire a wrongful death attorney who is well-versed in the laws in eastern Pennsylvania that may apply to your case.

The Purpose of the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Whether it’s a civil or criminal case, statutes of limitations are intended to allow a reasonable period for filing. One reason for the wrongful death statute of limitations is to protect potential defendants from being unfairly sued for events that happened years ago. In addition, critical evidence may no longer be available, which could make a plaintiff’s case virtually impossible to win or unfairly hinder the defense. Memories fade, and the testimony of witnesses may be unreliable.

This may seem unjust to someone who has lost a loved one, but without evidence, a wrongful death claim will likely go nowhere. That’s why it’s crucial to have a wrongful death lawyer evaluate your claim as soon as possible if you believe a loved one’s death was caused by negligence or deliberate malfeasance.

Recovering Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

A wrongful death lawyer may be able to help you recover damages such as:

  • Medical expenses related to your loved one’s injury or illness
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of the person’s future earnings
  • Loss of benefits such as medical insurance or pension
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Value of services a victim would have provided to the household
  • Mental anguish of the deceased person’s loved ones
  • Loss of guidance, care, and nurturing
  • Loss of companionship and society
  • Loss of consortium

Although no amount of money can bring back a loved one, filing a wrongful death claim can help families find a semblance of justice and hold responsible parties accountable.

Contact Our Wrongful Death Lawyers in Eastern PA

If you’ve lost a loved one and believe you may have cause to file a wrongful death claim, call Thomas, Conrad & Conrad Law Offices at 610-867-2900 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Our wrongful death attorneys serve clients throughout eastern Pennsylvania.


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