What are the Chances of Winning a Wrongful Death Suit?

By Ben Gobel on December 9, 2022

Wrongful Death papers with Judges Hammer

A wrongful death is a legal action against a person who may be held liable for the death of another person.  The death must have occurred as a direct result of the negligence, misconduct, or neglect of the other party. Pennsylvania law allows for the surviving family members of a loved one to file a wrongful death claim against the person responsible for the death.  Wrongful death claims can include slip and fall accidents, product liability, nursing home or elder abuse, and medical malpractice.  Wrongful deaths can also result from intentional acts or unlawful violence to a person, such as battery, assault, or murder.  

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death in Pennsylvania?  

Several elements must be established to prove a wrongful death in Pennsylvania. Your chances of winning a wrongful death suit will improve if you can prove the following four elements:

  1. There was a wrongful act committed by another individual (such as neglect, medical malpractice, or an intentional or violent act)
  2. The defendant breached a duty of reasonable care to the victim 
  3. The breach of duty caused the death of the victim
  4. The victim’s death resulted in damages, including medical expenses, burial and funeral costs, property damage, pain, and emotional losses.

Proving each of these elements is key to the chances of winning a wrongful death case.  As these elements are so important, it is always recommended to first reach out to a Pennsylvania lawyer in order to prepare your best case.  

Who are the Beneficiaries in A Wrongful Death Suit?

A wrongful death suit must be brought in a civil court by a person who is allowed to be a beneficiary of the claim under Pennsylvania law.  However, a surviving beneficiary is only allowed to file a wrongful death suit if no claims were ever filed by the victim before they died.

Pennsylvania law specifies who is considered a beneficiary in a wrongful death claim.  Only a limited number of individuals are eligible to file a lawsuit after a family member’s death.  

According to § 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 8301(b), beneficiaries can be 

“the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased.”  As such, the law limits beneficiaries to only close relations.  This means long-term romantic partners and other relatives (such as siblings. aunts, nieces, cousins, etc.) do not qualify as beneficiaries and cannot collect any type of financial compensation due to a wrongful death claim.   

If the decedent dies without any qualifying beneficiaries (spouse, child, or parent), then § 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 8301(d) stipulates that the decedent’s personal representative may “bring an action to recover damages for reasonable hospital, nursing, medical, funeral expenses and expenses of administration necessitated by reason of injuries causing death.”  A personal representative is usually the person who was named executor of the estate in the decedent’s will.  

Damages Awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Will Be Distributed According to State Intestacy Law

How is the money distributed after winning a wrongful death claim?  What if there are numerous surviving beneficiaries?  All economic damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit will be distributed among the beneficiaries according to the Pennsylvania intestacy law.

The intestacy law applies to wrongful death claims even if the decedent died with a will.  

The intestacy distribution is quite complex.  For instance, suppose the wrongful death victim didn’t have a spouse.  In that case, the money will be distributed equally among their children. If there are no surviving children, the money will go to the decedent’s parents.  If no parents are still alive, then the money will go to the state.  Your wrongful death lawyer will be able to answer any questions you have regarding the award distribution.  

How Can Wrongful Death Claims Provide Financial Help to Grieving Families?

A family can suffer a severe financial burden after a family member’s death.  Wrongful death settlements and lawsuits provide a way for surviving family members to recover damages. Wrongful death damages are awarded to offer compensation for the unexpected costs related to the victim’s demise.  Wrongful death damages may include monetary compensation for the following:

  • Medical Expenses: This includes any costs related to the medical care that was necessary following the accident or act.  
  • Funeral Costs and Burial Expenses: The average cost of funeral and burial expenses in the United States range from $7,000 to $12,000.  This bare-bones estimate does not factor in additional costs like cemetery plots, gravestones, and funeral ceremony expenses (flowers, paid singers, food, etc.) If an untimely death occurred to your family due to the fault of another person, then you should try to recover these costs. 
  • Economic Losses:  These losses include any expenses suffered as a result of the incident, such as property damage sustained in a car accident, for instance.
  • Pain and Suffering – These damages are awarded for the mental anguish and emotional distress a family member suffered due to losing a loved one.  
  • Loss of Consortium – This is awarded to a spouse who suffered emotional losses, such as companionship, comfort, and sexual relations due to the wrongful death.  

Every wrongful death case is different, and the amount of compensation awarded will be determined by various factors.  Speak to a lawyer who specializes in wrongful death cases to determine an accurate estimate of the compensation you could receive. 

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Case?

All wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the victim’s demise.  Make sure you file your wrongful death lawsuit in time.  Reach out to our Pittsburgh law office today to learn more about how you can receive compensation for your claim. 

Loved Ones Have a Right to Seek Compensation for an Emotional Loss

Wrongful death lawsuits provide a way for a grieved family member to receive compensation due to a death caused by someone else’s negligence or intent.  Before you initiate a wrongful death lawsuit,  you should speak to a Pittsburgh wrongful death attorney who can help determine your best course of action. The law firm of Ogg, Murphy & Perkosky is comprised of a team of dedicated specialists ready to help navigate you and your family through this difficult time.  Contact Ogg, Murphy & Perkosky today to schedule a free consultation. 

The Law Firm of Ogg, Murphy, & Perkosky Can Help Improve Your Chances of Winning a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

An experienced personal injury lawyer will exponentially increase your chances of winning a wrongful death suit. When represented by Ogg, Murphy, & Perkosky, you will have a certified specialist wrongful death lawyer on your side. Our esteemed law firm works aggressively to represent wrongful death victims in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas.  Whether negotiating a wrongful death settlement in your favor, or taking the case to trial, our firm will not stop until you have received financial compensation for your case.

While no one can bring your family member back, we can help you receive compensation for the loss that you have suffered. Your family deserves justice for the wrongful act that took the life of a family member.  You deserve financial compensation for funeral expenses, emotional loss, and pain and suffering. Contact our office today to speak to take the necessary steps.  Ogg, Murphy, & Perkosky is the law firm you can trust to improve your chances of winning a wrongful death suit.