Losing a loved one is a heartbreaking experience. It can be even more difficult when someone’s death was caused by carelessness or negligence. Our personal injury attorneys at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad Law Offices provide compassionate, skilled legal representation you can trust. For more than 40 years, we’ve helped families throughout the Lehigh Valley pursue wrongful death claims after the unfortunate loss of a loved one.
What is Wrongful Death?
Pennsylvania law defines wrongful death as a death that’s “caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.” Typically, if there’s a basis for a personal injury claim if the deceased person had lived, a wrongful death and/or survival action claim can be pursued. In other words, a wrongful death claim can be brought even though the victim is unable to bring their own claim against the negligent party.
It’s important to keep in mind that if criminal charges are pending against someone or a trial is still ongoing, complications can arise with your wrongful death claim. Our Lehigh Valley wrongful death lawyers are well-versed in Pennsylvania law. We understand the potential pitfalls that can arise, how to navigate these matters, and always keep your interests at the forefront.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
The specific circumstances surrounding a wrongful death are unique in each case, but some of the most common causes include:
- Motor vehicle crashes
- Tractor-trailer accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Bike and pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Dog attacks
- Defective products
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Workplace accidents
- Assault and other acts of violence
Our accident attorneys are well-versed in parsing out the nuances and factors that contribute to wrongful death. We know how to build solid arguments that show how and why someone may be responsible for the wrongful death of another. Whether negotiating with an insurance company or litigating a case in court, pointing out small details about how a death occurred can make a huge difference when it comes to strengthening your chances of winning a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit or Survival Action?
In Pennsylvania, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate’s beneficiaries. If a wrongful death claim isn’t filed by the personal representative within six months of the date of death, a beneficiary of the estate can file a claim on behalf of all beneficiaries. Our attorneys can guide you through the process and ensure your claim is filed in adherence to Pennsylvania wrongful death laws.
Recovering Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
At Thomas, Conrad & Conrad Law Offices, we understand that the emotional and financial impact of the death of a loved one can be stressful and overwhelming. While no amount of money can bring them back, recovering compensation can help assuage the financial burden that can accompany the wrongful death of a child, spouse or parent. Our team includes some of the best wrongful death lawyers in the Lehigh Valley. We fight for your rights and work tirelessly to get the justice and compensation your family deserves.
Damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit or survival action include:
- Medical expenses incurred before the death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Estate administration expenses
- The decedent’s future lost wages and benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of guidance, companionship, and consortium
Wrongful death claim damages are intended to compensate the surviving family members for losses related to their loved one’s death. If there’s no spouse or surviving family members, damages like pain and suffering cannot be recovered. However, a personal representative of an estate may seek damages for medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, and estate administration expenses to compensate the estate for costs related to the wrongful death, even if there are no surviving relatives.
In rare instances, a deceased person’s loved ones may be able to obtain punitive damages if the defendant’s actions were particularly reckless, egregious, or intentional. Each case is different, and the damages you may be able to recover will depend on the specific circumstances surrounding your case. Our wrongful death attorneys evaluate and thoroughly investigate your case to determine which types of damages may apply.
Calculating Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
Various factors affect how a wrongful death claim is valued. Economic damages like the decedent’s medical costs before their death and funeral expenses are fairly simple to calculate. However, other factors are also considered when calculating wrongful death damages, including:
- The decedent’s income
- Their training and education
- The state of their health before the death occurred
- Their age
- Their role in the family, such as the primary breadwinner or caregiver
- Whether the decedent had dependent children
- Loss of services they provided to the family, including childcare, household chores, and other duties
- Emotional anguish and loss of guidance suffered by the family
- The circumstances surrounding the wrongful death
The valuation of a claim may also depend on insurance policy limits and the defendant’s financial resources. Claims against trucking companies, businesses, and other large entities may offer more significant settlements or awards because of high insurance policy limits and assets to support larger verdicts.
When multiple parties may be liable for damages, we identify and pursue all possible avenues of compensation to help make things right for your loved one and your family. Our Pennsylvania wrongful death attorneys have a proven track record of success when it comes to recovering maximum compensation for our clients in motor vehicle accident cases, claims involving drunk drivers, and other types of wrongful death lawsuits.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania
Personal injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of the injury or death in Pennsylvania. That’s why it’s vital to seek the counsel of an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible if you believe your loved one was killed due to someone else’s negligence. Depending on the specific circumstances, exceptions to these time limits may apply, and having the knowledge of skilled personal injury attorneys in your corner can help to ensure your rights are protected
Proving negligence is an essential component of most personal injury and wrongful death claims. To prove negligence, you must demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty of care to the injured party, that they breached that duty, that their actions or inaction caused the injury, and that the injured party suffered damages because of the defendant’s actions. Our wrongful death lawyers use evidence, witness statements, and may hire experts to prove all these elements, which can lead to a successful outcome for your case.
A wrongful death can result from an intentional act such as assault as well. For example, to prove that a victim died because they were shot by another person, the plaintiff must demonstrate that:
- The defendant committed an intentional act, such as shooting the decedent
- The person who was shot died
- Their death was caused by the defendant’s intentional act
In these types of cases, criminal charges may also be a factor that can influence a wrongful death claim. Our personal injury lawyers in Pennsylvania have achieved successful outcomes in wrongful death cases involving violent acts. We fight tirelessly to help families find justice and recover compensation.
Our Wrongful Death Lawyers Protect Your Interests
Dealing with insurance companies can be emotionally draining when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one. An insurance adjuster may try to convince you to accept the first settlement offer, which can be tempting if you’re struggling financially. Typically, insurers offer as little as possible or may try to deny your claim. Do not give a statement, sign anything, or accept a settlement without speaking to a lawyer first. Our accident attorneys are familiar with the strategies insurers often employ to get families to quickly settle wrongful death claims. We fight for your rights and won’t back down, even if it means taking your case to court to pursue the full and fair recovery you may be entitled to receive.
We Care about You and Your Family
Over the years, our team has become intimately familiar with the anguish and financial hardship many families experience after losing a loved one in an accident. We serve families in the Lehigh Valley with compassion and tenacity. We’re here to ease the heavy burden you may be carrying so you can focus on your loved ones’ healing. Your wrongful death lawyer keeps you updated at every stage of the legal process and is happy to answer any questions or concerns that arise.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer in the Lehigh Valley
Our caring, compassionate legal team at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad can determine whether you have a viable wrongful death claim and advise you on the best course of action to recover maximum compensation. With several convenient locations to choose from, our Lehigh Valley wrongful death attorneys make it easy to find the top-notch legal representation you need.Contact us online or call 610-867-2900 to schedule a free consultation. Our team proudly serves personal injury clients throughout the Lehigh Valley and eastern Pennsylvania.