What is a Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Action?
Under the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, certain surviving family members may bring a civil lawsuit to obtain financial compensation from a party whose negligent conduct caused the death of their loved one. The basis of a wrongful death action is the death itself and how it affected the immediate family.
Under Pennsylvania law, surviving family members may bring a wrongful death action and recover the following types of financial losses.
- All hospital, medical, funeral, burial, and estate administration expenses.
- Compensation for the family (wife, children, parents, etc.) for the loss of any financial contributions the deceased family member would have made in support of the family, i.e., shelter, food, clothing, medical care, education, entertainment, gifts, and recreation.
- Compensation for the monetary value of the services, society, and comfort that the deceased family member would have given to the family, i.e., work around the house, physical comforts/services, etc.
- Surviving children are entitled to compensation for the loss of the services that the deceased parent would have contributed to the children, i.e., guidance, tutelage, and moral upbringing.
What is a Pennsylvania Survival Action?
Under the Pennsylvania Survival Act, the administrator of an estate may bring a lawsuit against any party whose negligent conduct led to the decedent being injured in an accident. The basis of a survival action is the accident itself and how the accident/injuries affected the deceased family member. Basically, a survival action is like the continuation of a legal claim that belonged to the deceased loved family member, but due to the death, the legal claim passed to the estate.
Under the Survival Act, claims for financial compensation that can be made include the following:
- Compensation for the deceased family member’s lost earnings from the period of time between the accident and death.
- Compensation for the deceased family member’s net earnings. Net earnings are calculated in a special way under Pennsylvania’s Survival Act: gross income minus certain economic living expenses, i.e., contributions to the family and personal living expenses.
- Compensation for mental and physical pain, suffering, inconvenience and loss of life’s pleasures that the deceased family member endured from the moment the accident happened until the moment of death.
Can a Surviving Family Member Bring Both?
Yes, Pennsylvania law clearly allows surviving family members and estate administrators/executors to bring both a wrongful death action and a survival action. In fact, if the case is ultimately presented to a jury, the jury will be instructed to add each of the damages in the proper category (wrongful death versus survival) and return a verdict with two lump sum amounts: one under the Wrongful Death Act and the other under the Survival Act.
However, it is important to note that in order to bring a survival action, the deceased family member must have survived for some period of time after the initial injury. If the deceased family member dies instantaneously, such as in a major car accident, then a survival action may not be allowed. An accident and injury lawyer would evaluate whether a survival action is appropriate and advise the family members accordingly.
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