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Who can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

January 09, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

A 56-year-old man was working on his front-loader at his home when the hydraulic unit at the front of the machine became dislodged and pinned him against the equipment. He died at the scene. How the front of the machine became dislodged is unknown at this time. However, if it’s found that the equipment was defective or malfunctioned, it could be considered a wrongful death.

Pennsylvania, like all states, has strict rules on who can file a wrongful death claim in the state. Unlike other states though, these laws are a little more complicated in the commonwealth. So, who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

The Personal Representative

The first person eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania is the personal representative of the estate.

If the deceased had a will when they passed away, the personal representative is the person named as the executor. If the deceased died intestate, meaning that they did not have a will, one of their loved ones may volunteer to act as the personal representative. Typically this person must be a close relative such as a spouse, a child, or a parent. In cases where there is no executor named in a will and no one volunteers, the probate courts will appoint a personal representative.

Regardless of which person acts as personal representative of the estate, if they file a wrongful death lawsuit, they file it on behalf of the beneficiaries.

The Beneficiaries

The law does not state which individuals are considered beneficiaries. If the deceased had a will at the time they passed, the courts will likely use the beneficiaries within that document to award damages. When the deceased died intestate however, it can become more complicated. If there is no will, generally any close family member may be considered a beneficiary. In these cases, spouses, parents, and children are usually considered the beneficiaries. When there isn’t a surviving spouse, child, or parent, a distant relative may be considered a beneficiary.

Wondering if You can File a Claim? Call Our Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Attorneys

Losing someone close to you is the hardest thing you will ever have to go through. Although a wrongful death claim cannot bring them back, it can help with the financial burden of the loss. Wrongful death cases in Pennsylvania can quickly become complicated and there are many laws that govern them. If you’re wondering if you can file a claim, contact our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim today. We will review your case, advise you of your legal options, and handle your claim for you every step of the way. Call us now at 215-515-6892 to schedule your free consultation.



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