Wrongful Death Lawyer in Philadelphia: How Long Can You Wait to File?

By VSCP LAW

If your loved one died as the result of the intentional, negligent, or reckless conduct of another person, you might have a valid wrongful death claim. Naturally, when you receive news of your loved one’s death, the last thing you’re thinking about is calling a wrongful death lawyer in Philadelphia. You are likely overwhelmed with grief and anger and confusion. And you have to juggle your work and personal lives while having to plan a funeral and burial and deal with your loved one’s assets and estate. 

And yet, “as soon as possible” is the best time to contact a Philadelphia wrongful death attorney so they can have enough time to review the evidence and file a wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf. This article examines how long you can wait to file your wrongful death claim and offers an example scenario to illustrate the need for swift action.

THE LAW

Under the Pennsylvania wrongful death statute, you have 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 your wrongful death attorneys will need ample time to investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death. They will need to order records such as medical records or employment records. They will need to interview various individuals who were involved in or had substantial knowledge about the circumstances leading up to your loved one’s death. They will need to fully understand whether someone or multiple people are at fault for your loved one’s death. Thus, in order to comply with the wrongful death statute of limitations, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible after your loved one dies.

*An important exception to the Pennsylvania wrongful death statute is in cases of “fraudulent concealment.” This part of the statute can occur in the medical malpractice context. It provides that if a plaintiff is fraudulently persuaded or lulled by the defendant’s medical care providers that the cause of their loved one’s death was not actionable in court because they did nothing wrong and/or concealed relevant facts from the plaintiff, the plaintiff might argue that they have more than two years from the date of death. The plaintiff could have as much as two years from the time they discovered (or should have discovered) that the defendant’s actions or omissions could likely have caused their loved one’s death.

EXAMPLE

Let’s say that someone was in a fatal motor vehicle accident on November 1, 2023. Under the law, technically, the loved ones of the decedent could file the wrongful death claim by October 31, 2025. But it would be very unwise to wait until the last legal moment to do so. 

In fact, if someone was killed in a fatal accident on November 1, 2023, the family should contact a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible so that the lawyer can begin the arduous task of collecting all possible evidence. Examples of evidence that needs to be preserved as soon as possible include the vehicles that the decedent and the defendant were driving; photos and videos of the accident, which may be in the possession of eyewitnesses, local businesses, or highway cameras; police reports; eye witness statements; and medical records.

Wrongful death attorneys understand the immense grief associated with wrongful death lawsuits and will do everything in their power to work with you to ease your burdens during the stressful time after your loved one’s death.

If you believe your loved one has died as the direct result of someone else’s actions or omissions, you may have a viable wrongful death lawsuit. Don’t hesitate to contact the experienced wrongful death attorneys at VSCP LAW.

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