By VSCP LAW
When your loved one dies as the result of someone else’s actions or inactions, you may wonder whether their death could have been prevented. And, if so, you may wonder whether you have a possible wrongful death lawsuit. Read on to understand what you need to know about wrongful death lawsuits.
It is essential to know who represents the estate prior to filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
If your loved one died without a will, usually a spouse or other family member may file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. If there are no surviving family members, the court may appoint a personal representative called an “administrator” or “administratrix.”
If your loved one died with a will, the person appointed in the will as the “executor” or “executrix” may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Your wrongful death attorney in Philadelphia will help you figure out who should represent the estate.
In order to establish your wrongful death lawsuit, you need to prove:
(1) DUTY – The defendant had a duty to not harm your loved one. For example, motorists have a duty to drive safely and not hurt other drivers. And doctors have a duty to not harm their patients.
(2) BREACH OF DUTY – The defendant breached their duty not to harm your loved one.
(3) CAUSATION – The defendant’s breach of that duty to not harm your loved one increased the risk of death.
(4) DAMAGES – Due to the defendant’s actions or inactions, your loved one died. Your loved one’s loss of life is only part of the damages. Your losses matter too. In the next section, read about possible compensation for you in your wrongful death lawsuit.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania there are two main categories of compensation: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are quantifiable, meaning that the exact figure can be established with documentation. Examples include medical invoices, pharmaceutical bills, and funeral costs.
Non-economic damages are not quantifiable – they are more of a subjective assessment of the sad consequences, such as loss of companionship, pain, and suffering, and emotional distress. Read this prior blog post for a more detailed review of the various forms of compensation.
In Pennsylvania, the Estate of a deceased person only has two years after the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you don’t file the lawsuit during this window, you lose the right to sue. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. It is critical that you contact a Philadelphia wrongful death lawyer as soon as you suspect you may have a lawsuit so that they can make sure you are able to file your lawsuit on time.
There are certain actions that must be taken early in the process such as ordering an autopsy for the decedent (which needs to take place before burial, obviously). Toxicology reports may be ordered as well – toxicology measures the amounts and types of chemicals or drugs in the blood, saliva, and urine.
Other examples of evidence that needs to be gathered in a timely fashion include police reports, witness statements, photographs and videos, death certificate, and physical objects that are related to the wrongful death (e.g., prescription bottles, medical devices, etc).
Make sure you hire an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania so that they can guide you as to retaining critical evidence, the addition or absence of which could determine the success of your lawsuit.
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