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Recovery available for fatal car accidents in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act permits certain family members to recover losses associated with a loved one’s death.

Driving a car is among the most risky things that people do everyday. No matter what precautions are taken, drivers are often at the mercy of other drivers. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, an average of four people were killed each day by car accidents in the state, based on 2012 statistics. Unfortunately, this is a 1.9 percent increase from the year before.

These fatal car accidents can happen for a variety of reasons such as, fatigued truck drivers, intoxicated drivers, distracted drivers or just plain careless drivers. If you have lost a loved one in such a situation, you may find yourself left with unexpected medical bills, lost income, emotional loss and other losses due to the death. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law allows you to recoup these losses in cases where your loved one's death was caused by driver negligence.

Wrongful death can provide compensation

The legal remedy for this situation is a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of lawsuit is intended to compensate certain family members for the economic and non-economic losses suffered because of the decedent's death. Although wrongful death often occurs in car accidents, it also is common in cases of medical malpractice, workplace accidents and other instances where a person's carelessness led to someone's death.

Under the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, the aggrieved family members do not typically file the lawsuit directly. Instead, the personal representative of the decedent's estate brings the action on behalf of the members. An exception to this rule is if the lawsuit has not been filed within six months of the decedent's death. In this case, any family member entitled to collect damages under the act may file the lawsuit on behalf of other eligible members.

In most cases, only spouses, children and parents of the deceased may share any damages recovered in the lawsuit. Any compensation that is recovered from the negligent party is not distributed equaly, however. Instead, the proceeds are distributed according to the terms of the decedent's will (or intestacy laws if the decedent did not have a will).

Under the act, the eligible family members may recover damages for a variety of economic and non-economic losses such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Estate administration expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of decedent's services
  • Loss of parental guidance
  • Loss of comfort or society

Speak to an attorney

If a loved one has been killed in a car accident or by other acts of carelessness, it is important to seek immediate legal advice, as evidence of negligence can dissipate over time. An experienced personal injury attorney can gather evidence, determine whether negligence was the cause of your loved one's death and work to ensure that you receive all compensation that you are entitled to under the law.

Keywords: wrongful death, fatal car accidents