Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim and Other Frequently Asked Questions?

By VSCP LAW

It is essential to know who represents the estate prior to filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Connect with your wrongful death lawyer in Philadelphia so they can help guide you through the confusing rules. Below is a selection of frequently asked questions (and corresponding answers) about wrongful death lawsuits in Pennsylvania.

WHAT IF THERE IS A WILL?

If the decedent died with a will, the person appointed in the will as the “executor” or “executrix” represents the estate of the decedent. This executor or executrix may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

WHAT IF THERE IS NO WILL?

If the decedent died without a will, usually a spouse or other family member would be assigned personal representative of the decedent’s estate. If there are no surviving family members, the court may appoint a close friend or someone else to be a personal representative of the decedent’s estate. Whether a family member or not, the personal representative appointed by the court is called an “administrator” or “administratrix.” This administrator and administratrix may file a wrongful death suit.

WHO ELSE CAN SUE?

No one. Other than the court-appointed administrator or the will-stipulated executor (both referred to as the “personal representative”), no one else may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

WHAT DOES THE PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE HAVE TO DO BEFORE FILING THE WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT?

Before filing a wrongful death lawsuit, the administrator or executor must “raise an estate” (or “open an estate”). They must go to the Register of Wills, armed with various documents such as a death certificate, a will (if there is one), valid ID, etc. The process can be complicated depending on whether there is a will, whether the will is contested, etc. Your wrongful death attorney in Philadelphia can walk you through the necessary steps so that you have what you need to file the wrongful death lawsuit.

WHEN DOES THE PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE HAVE TO FILE THE WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT?

Under the Pennsylvania wrongful death statute, the personal representative has two years after the official death date to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This restriction is typically referred to as the wrongful death statute or the statute of limitations.

Two years may seem like a long time, but the wrongful death attorneys will need ample time to investigate the circumstances surrounding the decedent’s death. They will need to order records such as medical records or employment records. They will need to talk with various individuals who were involved in or had substantial knowledge about the circumstances leading up to the death. Thus, in order to comply with the wrongful death statute of limitations, the personal representative should contact an attorney as soon as possible.

WHO COLLECTS COMPENSATION FROM THE WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT?

Under the Pennsylvania wrongful death statute, there is a limited selection of individuals who can collect wrongful death damages in Pennsylvania. The beneficiaries, and the specific percentages, are set by Pennsylvania statutes.

You should hire a wrongful death attorney in Philadelphia to help you with all of the difficult stages of the claim, including these very preliminary ones. To talk with an experienced wrongful death attorney, contact the lawyers at VSCP Law.

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