Most residents of Pennsylvania don’t understand the rules that protect them when someone they love dies. After all, people hope to never need to make use of those protections. Unfortunately, not everyone dies of old age in the comfort of their home while surrounded by people who love them. People die unexpectedly and much earlier than they would if they passed due to natural causes.
Some people die because a co-worker shows up to the job drunk and makes a mistake when operating heavy machinery. Others die during traffic collisions caused by someone using social media while driving. There may be insurance policies that protect the surviving family members of someone who dies in an unexpected tragedy.
Pennsylvania’s wrongful death laws may also apply. However, the state carefully limits who may file such a lawsuit.
Who has the statutory right to pursue a wrongful death claim?
According to Pennsylvania state law, it will typically be the personal representative of someone’s estate who files a wrongful death lawsuit. They will first have to go to the courts and request permission to pursue the suit by formally establishing their role as the representative.
They will seek compensation from the business or individual who caused the death and then distribute the proceeds that result from that claim in accordance with state law. Typically, spouses, children and parents are the primary beneficiaries of such claims. Those beneficiaries can sometimes pursue a lawsuit on their own behalf.
If the representative of the estate fails to take action within six months of someone’s death, then the courts may allow those immediate family members with the right to receive proceeds from the lawsuit to file the claim instead of waiting for the representative to do so.
What if you were close but never married?
Maybe you had a 25-year relationship as best friends and platonic roommates with the individual who died. Perhaps you shared a lengthy romantic relationship but chose not to marry. The unfortunate truth is that those with a close relationship not acknowledged by law have neither the right to insist on a wrongful death claim nor to profit from one.
Educating yourself about the limitations that apply to Pennsylvania wrongful death lawsuits will make it easier for you to demand justice after losing a loved one.