Losing a loved one is always difficult, but it can be even harder when your loved one was unexpectedly and suddenly killed in a motorcycle accident that was caused by someone else’s careless or negligent actions. Pennsylvania recognizes the rights of certain surviving family members to pursue compensation when their loved ones are killed because of the wrongful or negligent actions of others. A Philadelphia motorcycle accident attorney at Raynes & Lawn can help you understand how to file a wrongful death claim to hold the negligent or wrongful actor accountable for his or her actions.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a civil wrong that occurs when someone is killed because of another person’s negligence or intentional acts. Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8301(a), a wrongful death claim is a type of civil lawsuit that can be filed against the person or entity responsible for causing the victim’s death to recover damages if the deceased person did not recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit for the same incident before he or she succumbed to his or her injuries. If a personal injury claim was filed before the victim died and is still pending at the time of the victim’s death, the claim will be merged with the wrongful death action to prevent a duplicate recovery.
A wrongful death action can be filed against a defendant even if the defendant has also been criminally charged since wrongful death actions involve civil law while criminal cases involve criminal law. Plaintiffs in wrongful death claims also have a lower burden of proof to prove their cases than the burden of proof required of criminal prosecutors to obtain a conviction. For this reason, it is sometimes possible for a wrongful death plaintiff to hold the defendant liable in a civil lawsuit even when the criminal charges against the defendant are dismissed.
The executor or personal representative of the victim’s estate is responsible for initiating a wrongful death action for the benefit of the surviving family members. However, if the personal representative or executor does not file a lawsuit within six months of the victim’s death, a beneficiary can file a lawsuit on behalf of all of the beneficiaries. There is a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits in Pennsylvania under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524(2). This means that you must file a wrongful death lawsuit no later than two years after the death of your loved one in a motorcycle accident. If you miss this deadline, your claim will be time-barred.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim?
Under 231 Pa. Code § 2202, the personal representative of the decedent must file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the beneficiaries. However, if the personal representative does not file a lawsuit within six months of the victim’s death, either the personal representative or one of the beneficiaries can file a claim on behalf of all of the beneficiaries.
Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8301(b), the beneficiaries who are entitled to recover compensation in a wrongful death claim are limited to the following parties:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving children
- Surviving parent(s)
If the wrongful death claim is successful, these beneficiaries will receive the proportionate share they are entitled to receive under the state’s intestacy laws. If none of these beneficiaries survive the victim, then the estate’s personal representative can file an action to recover damages for the reasonable hospital expenses, funeral expenses, and the costs of administering the estate because of the victim’s injuries and death.
What Damages Can Be Claimed?
The types of damages that might be recoverable in a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania include the following:
- Medical and hospital expenses incurred to treat the victim’s injuries before he or she died
- Loss of the income the victim would have contributed throughout his or her life if he or she had lived
- Reasonable funeral and burial costs
- Expenses of estate administration
- Loss of consortium and guidance
- Lost rights to an inheritance
- Psychological and emotional loss experienced by the family members
If the victim did not immediately die of his or her injuries, a survival action can also be filed. Under this type of action, the beneficiaries might also recover damages for the physical pain and suffering and other damages the victim endured before he or she died under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8302.
How A Motorcycle Accident Injury Attorney Can Help
Following your loved one’s death in a motorcycle accident, you should consult an experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney as soon as possible. While you are not required to retain a lawyer, having experienced legal representation can greatly increase your chances of winning your case.
A motorcycle accident and wrongful death lawyer can offer the following types of help:
- Determination of liability
- Investigation of the case and gathering evidence
- Determination of whether a probate estate should be created
- Establishment of the victim’s life expectancy
- Calculation of the amount of lost support the victim provided to the family
- Commencement of the lawsuit
- Negotiations with the insurance company
- Litigation at trial if no settlement agreement is reached
Wrongful death cases involving motorcycle accidents can be complex. Juries are sometimes biased against motorcyclists and tend to assign the blame to them for their accidents and resulting injuries. Having the help of an experienced lawyer might help you to build the strongest possible case to demonstrate to both the insurance company and a potential jury that the other party should be held accountable.
Talk To Raynes & Lawn
If you have lost your loved one in a motorcycle crash caused by someone else, you should speak to our experienced team of Philadelphia attorneys. We have represented negligence victims for more than 50 years and can help you understand the process and your legal rights. Call us today to schedule a free consultation at 1-800-535-1797.
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