How to Know Who is Entitled to a Settlement in a Wrongful Death Case

Losing a loved one as a result of another person’s negligence is one of the most challenging things to deal with. Families often face overwhelming mental and financial consequences as they attempt to move forward without their companions, parents, or children. After experiencing a loss, affected parties often have legal options to help alleviate some of the financial burdens that they face.

Family lawyer advising client

If you feel that you may be entitled to compensation after the death of a loved one, you should consult with a Philadelphia wrongful death attorney. An attorney will be able to provide insight as to what options you may have, your legal rights, and how much money you may be able to recover.

Who Can Recover Compensation Following a Wrongful Death?

In Pennsylvania, there are several parties that are able to file a wrongful death claim in order to recover compensation. Those who are able to recover a settlement include:

  • The surviving spouse of the victim who passed away
  • The surviving children of the victim who lost their life
  • The surviving parents of the deceased victim

Filing a timely claim is critical when it comes to providing yourself with the best chance of getting a fair settlement.

How is the Settlement Distributed?

There are specific guidelines surrounding how money is paid for a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania. In general, the surviving spouse is always entitled to a share of the settlement.

If the spouse is the only surviving member of the decedent’s family, they are entitled to recover the entire wrongful death settlement.

If the spouse and children are both alive, the spouse will recover the first $30,000 of the settlement. The remaining funds will be divided up equally between the spouse and all of the entitled children. For example, if the settlement amount is $170,000 and the claim is filed by the spouse and two children, the spouse will recover the first $30,000. The remaining $140,000 will then be divided between all three claimants.

If only children are alive to file a claim, the amount of compensation that is recovered will be split evenly between each child.

If a spouse and parents are pursuing a wrongful death claim, the same rules followed in the spouse with children circumstances will apply to the spouse and family case. The spouse will recover the first $30,000 of the settlement. The spouse will then receive half of the remaining amount, and the parents will also receive half combined. So if the settlement amount is $130,000, the spouse will receive the first $30,000, and then the spouse and the parents will receive $50,000 collectively.

Can Aunts and Uncles Claim Wrongful Death Damages?

In Pennsylvania, aunts and uncles do not have any right to claim compensation after a wrongful death. Instead, the law limits the ability to recover a wrongful death settlement to the spouse, the children, and the surviving parents of the deceased victim.

Are Siblings Able To Recover a Wrongful Death Settlement?

Similar to aunts and uncles, siblings are not allowed to file claims for wrongful death. However, the personal representative of the deceased victim’s estate has the ability to file a claim to recover both medical and funeral expenses.

What Damages Can Be Recovered Following a Wrongful Death?

In Pennsylvania, there are several damages that can be recovered following a wrongful death. In general, there are three types of damages that are pursuable. The first type of damages is referred to as economic damages. These include compensation for:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Burial costs
  • Medical costs
  • Lost earnings
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Property damage

The second type of damages that are able to be recovered is called non-economic damages. These include:

  • Loss of parental guidance
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of services
  • Loss of society
  • Loss of comfort

Finally, families may be able to recover compensation for punitive damages if the court finds that the conduct of the defendant was offensive or egregious.

Are Wrongful Death Damages Limited in Pennsylvania?

In some states, there are limits that individuals are able to recover for wrongful death damages. However, Pennsylvania’s constitution actually states that there is no limit on the amount of compensation you can receive. This means that the amount of compensation that you are awarded for the lawsuit is the amount of money that you are able to collect.

How to Prove a Wrongful Death Case

After the loss of a loved one, you will need to build a strong case against the defendant in order to prove a wrongful death case. You must be able to show that some form of negligence was the cause of the death of your loved one. To do so, you must show that the elements of negligence existed at the time of the accident.

First, you must provide evidence that demonstrates that the defendant owed a duty of care to your loved one. Next, you must show that the defendant somehow breached the duty of care. This could be something as simple as showing that both the defendant and your loved one were driving on the road, and the defendant engaged in some action that disregarded the health and safety of your loved one.

You must then demonstrate that the breach of duty was the cause of the accident and that your loved one’s death resulting from the accident caused damages or losses for you. Even though this seems like a straightforward process, insurance companies will do everything that they can to try to twist the blame in order to reduce their share of fault for the accident and the resulting damages.

After losing a loved one, it is in your best interest to seek legal guidance right away. You have a period of up to two years to file a claim for wrongful death. This makes it important for you to get started right away. Even though you have two years to file a claim, waiting can jeopardize your chance of getting justice.


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