Death is a sensitive subject to talk about let alone think about. In fact, the topic is so taboo that most people do not want to discuss financial plans for after they have passed. Worse still, a completely unforeseen death can cripple a family with financial debt. Funeral and medical bills are expensive. Money is the last thing you want to think about when you are in mourning. However, you have options if you are facing debt following a wrongful death of your loved one.
If you find yourself reeling from the loss of a loved one and need a wrongful death lawyer, do not hesitate to reach out to us. Here at Freundlich & Littman, we are your wrongful death lawyers. We help clients receive compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one in the greater Philadelphia area.
PA State Statute
The laws of each state govern wrongful death actions. Not every state allows wrongful death actions. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey allow wrongful death lawsuits.
Below is the Pennsylvania state statute for bringing a wrongful death action:
“Rule 2202. Parties entitled to bring action for wrongful death.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in clause (b) of this rule, an action for wrongful death shall be brought only by the personal representative of the decedent for the benefit of those persons entitled by law to recover damages for such wrongful death.
(b) If no action for wrongful death has been brought within six months after the death of the decedent, the action may be brought by the personal representative or by any person entitled by law to recover damages in such action as trustee ad litem on behalf of all persons entitled to share in the damages.
(c) While an action is pending it shall operate as a bar against the bringing of any other action for such wrongful death.”
In Pennsylvania wrongful death actions, personal representatives are the “the executor or administrator of the estate of a decedent duly qualified by law to bring actions within this Commonwealth.”
What Wrongful Death Cases Look Like
But what does this statute mean? To help you understand the process better, let us give you an unfortunate scenario. Your loved one is driving around minding the speed limit and traffic laws. Out of nowhere another motorist runs a red light and strikes your love one’s car, killing them. You suspect that the other driver was texting during the incident.
You have two possible courses of action – a criminal case or a civil lawsuit. A prosecutor decides whether to bring charges against the other driver. Even if the prosecutor brings charges, you may still proceed with a wrongful death action. A criminal trial will not make up the financial loss of your spouse. The only way to seek financial compensation is to seek a civil lawsuit.
Your next option is to seek civil relief in a court. A wrongful death action tends to happen after criminal actions failed to give the family adequate justice. You must first fall within the guidelines of a personal representative. Then, you must bring a wrongful death action within two years of the death. Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death actions.
A prosecutor must prove a criminal charge “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A plaintiff only needs to prove a civil lawsuit by a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. A preponderance standard is more relaxed than the criminal standard, but it still requires proof.
In a criminal case, the burden is on the state or prosecutor. For a civil case like wrongful death, the standard of proof is on you, the plaintiff. This means that you have to proof to a judge or jury that it was more likely than not that the other driver was texting when they struck your loved one’s car.
In a wrongful death action, you must not only show negligence on the part of the defendant. As a plaintiff, you must also show that the reason for the wrongful death was the defendant’s negligence.
How do you show all this during a trial? Simple – you need to have an experienced wrongful death attorney at your side speaking on behalf of your loved one who is no longer here to speak for herself/himself.
Philadelphia Wrongful Death Attorneys
If you are in need of a Philadelphia wrongful death attorney, do not hesitate to reach out to us to discuss your case. Waiting longer than the two-year statute of limitations may bar your case from going forward. We are here to help you through this devastating time in your life. Call us today at 215-545-8500 to schedule a free consultation.