Understanding Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Laws: A Guide for Potential Plaintiffs

Philadelphia, PA – Filing a lawsuit in Pennsylvania can be a complex process, especially for those without a solid grasp of the legal system. To navigate the intricacies of wrongful death cases, it is essential to understand the state’s laws and regulations. Philadelphia is home to a multitude of experienced wrongful death lawyers who have dedicated over a decade of practice to honing their skills in this area of law.

While this guide cannot transform readers into overnight legal experts, it aims to provide enough knowledge to make informed decisions when choosing a lawyer specialized in Pennsylvania wrongful death cases.

One crucial aspect to consider is the statute of limitations. Every state has a different timeframe within which plaintiffs must file their lawsuits, and the specific limitations depend on the type of case. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is two years from the date of the death. Deviating from this timeline without any exceptional circumstances can result in the dismissal of the case. Additionally, the clock starts ticking on the date of injury for survival actions, rather than the date of death.

Pennsylvania’s wrongful death laws are generally favorable towards plaintiffs. However, understanding a few key aspects can help potential claimants when pursuing legal action. For punitive damages, Pennsylvania places a cap that prevents recipients from being awarded more than double the amount of their actual damages. Moreover, only specific individuals, such as spouses, children, parents, or personal representatives of the deceased’s estate, are eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Lastly, compensatory amounts derived from a wrongful death lawsuit are exempt from federal and state income and inheritance taxes.

It is crucial to acknowledge that most wrongful death cases are resolved through settlements rather than jury verdicts. Philadelphia wrongful death attorneys typically engage in negotiations with the responsible party’s insurance company. During these settlement talks, lawyers consider various factors. Insurance companies generally offer settlements that align with the potential awards from a trial. Since actual damages have no limit, attorneys focus on proving the losses suffered. In some cases, plaintiffs may agree to accept less than the maximum potential value to expedite the process and eliminate the risk of losing at trial.

Trials can often span over a year or more, while settlements are usually resolved within months. Given the advantage of obtaining funds quickly and avoiding jury decisions, many individuals find settling for less than a maximum award favorable. While attorneys typically receive compensation of 25% to 33% from the settlement, plaintiffs do not face any additional costs. According to state and federal laws, settlements are considered tax-free, similar to jury awards.

Understanding the intricate legal framework surrounding wrongful death cases in Pennsylvania is essential for anyone seeking justice for a loved one. With a clear comprehension of the nuances involved, individuals can make informed decisions when choosing a Philadelphia wrongful death lawyer and navigating the complex process.