Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania?
Wrongful death occurs when a “wrongful,” but not necessarily criminal, act or omission leads to a person’s death. If you lost a loved one because of negligence, recklessness or deliberate violence, you may have standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Pennsylvania law says that a wrongful death action can only be brought by a personal representative of the decedent’s estate for the benefit of all who are entitled to recover damages. However, if a personal representative does not file a lawsuit within six months of the death, any person who is entitled to recover damages may file the action.
Under Pennsylvania law, anyone who would stand to inherit from the decedent under the commonwealth’s laws of intestacy has standing to file a wrongful death action. These include:
- A surviving spouse
- Children of the decedent
- Parents of the decedent
Potential plaintiffs need not be citizens or residents of the commonwealth. It is also important to note that the court consolidates all potential beneficiaries’ claims into a single lawsuit. Therefore, if someone who has standing has already filed a wrongful death action, you cannot file your own. But, if you have a legitimate claim to damages, you can share in any settlement or award.
It is always a good idea for families to discuss possible legal action so they are not at odds with each other, but instead are focused on prosecuting a case against the defendant. One very important consideration is the attorney you choose to take your case to court. It is always best to come to a consensus choice of a capable, reputable lawyer, rather than rushing to court with someone the rest of your family does not have confidence in.
Rudberg Law Offices, LLC represents grieving families who have lost loved ones to auto accidents, medical malpractice, defective product accidents and other fatal injury events. If you have lost a loved one in Pittsburgh or throughout western Pennsylvania, schedule a free consultation by calling 412-488-6000 or contacting our Pittsburgh office online.