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Wrongful Death FAQs

July 18, 2019

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

In early May, U-Haul of Pennsylvania was found guilty of causing a propane gas explosion in a food truck in 2014. During the incident, a woman died, along with her daughter that was in the truck with her. Before the guilty verdict was handed down, U-Haul had already settled a wrongful death lawsuit out of court for $160 million. It was the largest settlement prior to a verdict in the Pennsylvania’s history.

The story shows that manufacturers, resellers, and retailers are responsible for ensuring their products are safe to use. This was the case even though U-Haul never admitted to any wrongdoing. The story is tragic, but also raises some interesting questions. Wrongful death is an extremely complicated area of personal injury law and those that have lost someone often have many questions. The answers to the most common of those are below.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death and Survival Claim?

In many states, certain loved ones are eligible to file a wrongful death claim if they have lost someone due to another person’s negligence. In Pennsylvania however, only the legal representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death and survival claim. This is often still a loved one such as a spouse or child. However, when there is no representative, the courts will appoint one.

What Compensation Can You Receive in a Wrongful Death and Survival Claim?

Survival claims are considered personal injury claims a person could have filed had they survived the accident that caused their death. Therefore, survival claims can ask for compensation for the deceased, including pain and suffering before they died, and medical expenses incurred before they passed.

Wrongful death claims are meant to compensate the family for the losses they have incurred as a result of the death. Due to this, damages sought in a wrongful death suit can include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of income the deceased contributed to the household
  • Loss of benefits the deceased contributed to the household
  • Loss of household services
  • Loss of love and companionship
  • Mental anguish suffered by the loved ones

The actual damages available in any one lawsuit will depend on the circumstances of the case.

How to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?

In order for a wrongful death claim to be successful, the legal representative of the deceased’s estate must prove that another person was negligent. That person is named as defendant in the lawsuit. The legal representative must also prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the death and that it wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

What is the Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death and Survival Cases?

In Pennsylvania, wrongful death is an area of personal injury law. As such, a wrongful death claim has a statute of limitations of two years from the date of death. This means that when a lawsuit is filed after this time, the representative of the estate, or person pursuing the case, is barred from recovering damages. However, there are instances in which the statute of limitations is tolled, or extended, and a wrongful death attorney can advise on those exceptions.

A survival case has a statute of limitation of two years from the time the deceased knew or should have known he was injured and another person’s negligence has caused the injury. This means in a survival case the two-year statute of limitations may start running before the date of death.

Have a Wrongful Death Case? Speak to the Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys that can Help

Losing a loved one is never easy. Unfortunately, neither is filing a wrongful death lawsuit to claim compensation for the loss. For this reason, anyone that thinks they may have a claim should speak to an experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney for help.

If you’ve lost someone, and you believe it was due to someone else’s negligence, call van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim today at (215) 486-0123. We’ll hold responsible parties accountable for their actions, and help you get the full amount of compensation you deserve. Call us today to learn more about how we can help.



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