When a loved one dies through actions or events caused intentionally or negligently, two available causes of action are available to compensate family members for unforeseen loss: wrongful death and survival. Families in need of legal advice must understand the important distinctions that exist between these causes of action. For over a century, the attorneys at Powell Law have helped families that have lost a loved one receive compensation through wrongful death and survival actions.
*Only certain family members may sue for wrongful death. Under Pennsylvania law, spouses, parents or children of a fatal accident victim are eligible to file a lawsuit for wrongful death. If none of these individual family members are available, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file a wrongful death action. Unlike wrongful death, in the case of a survivor action, only the personal representative may file suit.
*Wrongful death damages focus on the losses to the victim’s family, rather than the decedent. Damages include loss of income, loss of support, and the loss of the decedent’s companionship, guidance, and other positive contributions to family life. Family members may also recover medical and funeral expenses.
Survival actions focus on the losses to the decedent. Survival actions attempt to recover damages that the victim would have been able to claim in a personal injury lawsuit if the victim had survived. The significant aspect of these damages is the conscious pain and suffering experienced by the decedent between the time of the accident and the time of death. This could be minutes or years.
*Wrongful death actions distribute damages under Pennsylvania intestacy distribution rules. Thus, damages are distributed as they would be had the victim died without a will. On the other hand, survival damages belong entirely to a decedent’s estate, and will be eventually distributed under the terms of a decedent’s will.
*Wrongful death damages are not subject to estate taxes or creditor claims against the estate. Survival damages are subject to estate taxes and may be reached by the creditors of the estate.
The value of a decedent’s positive contributions is always subjective and difficult to prove in strict, economic terms. Pennsylvania juries must make an award that is fair and just under the circumstances of a particular case. It is important that family members retain an attorney familiar with these factors. For 110 years, Powell Law has litigated Pennsylvania wrongful death and survival actions in cases ranging from motor vehicle accidents to medical malpractice. Consult the experienced attorneys at Powell Law. Contact us online or call (570) 961-0777. You don’t pay unless we win.