Losing a loved one is heartbreaking and can be one of the most difficult experiences a person can go through. However, the experience is even more tragic when the death is caused by the negligent act of another. If your loved one was wrongfully killed, you and your family may be entitled to financial compensation. While no amount of monetary damages can, unfortunately, bring your loved one back, it may be helpful to know that justice can be brought as a result of a Philadelphia wrongful death lawsuit. In some instances, lawsuits may prevent someone else from being seriously harmed as a result of the negligence that led to your loved one’s death.
At Youman & Caputo, we understand how difficult the aftermath of loss can be and we are here to help. Our Philadelphia wrongful death attorneys have significant experience representing Pennsylvania families after the death of a loved one and have recovered millions of dollars on their behalf. When you are ready, please, call for a free and confidential case evaluation.
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Goals in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Elements of a Wrongful Death Case
What to Expect in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Proving Wrongful Death Damages
Valuation of a Wrongful Death Case
Is a Wrongful Death Settlement Taxable?
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Philadelphia?
Legal Implications of a Lawsuit
Philadelphia Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
Benefits of Hiring an Attorney
Choosing the Right Wrongful Death Attorney
Speak to a Lawyer Today
The goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is to recover monetary compensation to alleviate the financial burden on the surviving family members. This is especially true if the deceased family member was primarily or solely responsible for the household income before their death. In a lawsuit, these financial losses are referred to as damages. Compensatory damages that result from wrongful deaths seek to include the full value of the life and can include: lost wages, lost companionship, medical expenses, funeral expenses, and other necessary expenses. In rare cases involving intentional acts or gross negligence, punitive damages may be awarded when the circumstances are particularly egregious. Punitive damages are monetary compensation that are designed to punish the negligent party for particularly reckless behavior.
While it may be difficult to put a financial value on the life of a loved one, this is one of the most important roles that a Philadelphia catastrophic injury lawyer has in wrongful death cases. Surviving family members only have one chance to seek justice for their loved one, so it is vital that the financial impact of the death is fully and accurately calculated.
For a family to have grounds to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania, there needs to be evidence of certain required elements. Most wrongful death claims in Philadelphia are based on the plaintiff’s legal theory of negligence. If someone is negligent, that person or party has failed to use the accepted or required duty of care. An example of negligence is a driver texting while driving and causing a deadly car accident.
Proving negligence requires evidence of four elements:
The burden of proof in a wrongful death claim is a preponderance of the evidence. It is also known as the “more likely than not” standard. It requires the plaintiff to show clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is more likely than not responsible for the victim’s fatal injuries, or responsible with at least a 51 percent certainty. Although this is less than the criminal justice system’s “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, it is still difficult to meet without assistance from a lawyer.
The legal process behind filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania is daunting. With the right lawyer by your side, however, it doesn’t have to be. First, the lawyer for the personal representative who is acting on behalf of the deceased person’s estate will file by the state’s deadline. Once the claim has been filed, the defendant named in the claim will have 15 business days to respond.
Along with your claim, your lawyer can submit paperwork, evidence and other required information. Most insurance companies require proof of losses, for example, or proof of its policyholder’s fault for the fatal injury being claimed. Once an insurance claims adjuster analyzes and processes your claim, the insurance company may offer a settlement if it accepts liability for the death. Otherwise, it could reject your claim and your case may have to go to trial.
Prior to a trial but after a wrongful death lawsuit is filed with the civil court in Philadelphia, there is a discovery phase, where both sides of the case have the opportunity to seek information from one another through written requests and interviews. There might also be pre-trial motions filed to gather further evidence. Then, the trial will take place, where your lawyer will work to meet the burden of proof through clear and convincing evidence and witness testimony. At the end of the trial, the jury will determine whether or not you met your burden of proof.
When it comes to proving your losses or damages during a wrongful death lawsuit, evidence is key. You or your lawyer need evidence that establishes how your loved one’s death has impacted you and your family. This means financially, mentally and emotionally. It is important to remember that an insurance company will look for reasons to deny your claim, including insufficient proof of your losses. An attorney can help you obtain stronger proof of damages to submit with your claim.
Proving damages often starts with economic losses. Proof of economic, financial or monetary losses may include your loved one’s lost wages to prove potential future earnings, bills from the decedent’s final necessary medical treatments, any related travel or transportation costs, documents proving estate administration costs, and receipts to prove reasonable funeral and burial expenses. Proving noneconomic damages (e.g., pain and suffering), on the other hand, may require testimony from a psychiatrist or expert or journals kept by grieving loved ones.
Once an insurance company receives your claim and proof of loss forms, it will begin to determine your family’s payout. Calculating economic damages is simpler than noneconomic damages, as there are hard numbers to back up its value. An insurance company will start by adding up all of the expenses connected to your loved one’s death – including future foreseeable costs – to calculate the value of your economic damages.
To determine future costs, the insurer will analyze the decedent’s wages, age and health at the time of the accident, the decedent’s special training and job experience, and future benefits or work opportunities lost. Then, the insurer will calculate noneconomic damages. These are more subjective and do not come with receipts. An insurance company may assign this value using information about the family, such as whether the decedent had a minor child at the time of death, and the level of negligence the responsible party exhibited.
You do not have to accept the value that an insurance company assigns to your wrongful death claim. If you aren’t happy with the settlement offered, retain an attorney to help you negotiate with the claims adjuster for a just amount. An attorney has the power to take a defendant or insurance corporation to trial in Philadelphia, if necessary, to demand maximum financial compensation for the full extent of your family’s losses.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) states that wrongful death settlements and judgment awards are not taxable, with the exception of punitive damages. Unlike economic and noneconomic damages, punitive damages are not awarded to compensate survivors. They are granted as a way for a judge to punish a defendant and set an example for others in the community not to commit the same wrongful acts in the future. While punitive damages may be taxed, other damages in a wrongful death claim are generally tax-free.
According to Pennsylvania State law ch. 83, § 8301, “an action may be brought to recover damages for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or negligent or unlawful violence or negligence of another.” The eligible beneficiaries that can bring a wrongful death claim are the deceased spouse, children, or parents. If your spouse or parent was wrongfully killed as a result of a negligent act, you may be entitled to wrongful death benefits on their behalf. The Pennsylvania lawmakers chose these select family members as the dedicated wrongful deceased representatives because these groups of people are the most financially harmed when a loved one dies.
Additionally, if there are no children or spouses of the deceased, the parents of the deceased or a personal representative (not related to the family) may file a lawsuit against the person or business that caused the wrongful death. There are specific limitations if a personal representative files a lawsuit on behalf of the wrongfully deceased according to Penn. State Law ch. 83 §8301 (b). The personal representatives are limited to recover only on the following: medical bills, funeral costs, loss of financial contributions, loss of comfort, and loss of guidance for the children of the deceased. Hiring a lawyer will help you to sort out who should bring the case and against who the case should be brought. The Philadelphia wrongful death attorneys at Youman & Caputo will work tirelessly to provide you with the maximum compensation for your loved one’s death.
While a fatal accident can occur in almost any setting, those that give rise to wrongful death claims often involve dangerous property conditions or negligent security, defective products, medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, and construction site accidents. However, building a strong case is vital to recovering a just settlement in any wrongful death case. Depending upon the specific circumstances, there may be vastly different evidence available, such as police reports, video surveillance, eyewitness testimony, company logs or reports, medical reports and expert testimony, among many others. With experience litigating a range of cases, from car accidents to delayed cancer diagnosis lawsuits in Philadelphia, the attorneys at Youman & Caputo are ready to represent your family with integrity and fierce advocacy.
Along with gathering evidence an attorney can also: deal with insurance companies, negotiate settlements, and if a fair and full settlement is not possible, then prepare for and take your case to trial in Pennsylvania State Civil Court. When you hire a wrongful death attorney on behalf of a loved one, they will work with you and guide you through these steps. Going through the legal process following a tragedy can be difficult and very stressful. Working with a lawyer from Youman & Caputo will help you reduce your stress as you focus on grieving your loved one and your attorney will focus on achieving the best possible outcome for your specific circumstances.
Wrongful death cases have strict time limits, known as the statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, you have two years from the day of the wrongful death to bring a lawsuit against the person who caused the death. After two years, the statute of limitations expires and your claim is voided. This means that if you do not bring an action within two years, you may not bring action against the responsible party at all. However, there are specific legal circumstances that if met, lengthen the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania. Wrongful death cases are complex and the stakes are very high. Therefore, it is in your best interests to hire a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after your loved one’s death. An experienced attorney can help ensure that all legal deadlines are met and that all your options remain open for gaining adequate compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death.
Dealing with a wrongful death claim can be overwhelming while also grieving the loss of your loved one. Unless you have a legal background, you may not fully understand Pennsylvania’s wrongful death laws or how to correctly navigate them. You may also be at risk of an insurance company taking advantage of you to save money and protect its own profits. You can avoid these issues by hiring a wrongful death attorney in Philadelphia to represent you.
An attorney can take care of the complicated legal process for you while you spend time with your family and try to move forward. Your lawyer will investigate the fatal incident, preserve and collect evidence to support your case, identify the defendant(s), calculate your damages, file confusing paperwork, abide by all of Pennsylvania’s relevant laws, and make sure that your family has everything it needs during this difficult time.
The right Philadelphia wrongful death lawyer can make all of the difference to your legal experience and the outcome of your case. While there is no amount of money that can right the wrong of losing a loved one in an avoidable accident, securing a fair amount can help secure your family’s future and hold the responsible party accountable. Trust an attorney with your case for optimal results.
Not all wrongful death attorneys in Philadelphia are created equal. When searching for the ideal lawyer to represent your family, look for the following traits:
You should feel a connection to your wrongful death attorney. Schedule free consultations with a couple of top options to choose the right lawyer for you.
Wrongful death lawsuits in Philadelphia are very complex as they have unique legal challenges that can potentially hinder a fair and reasonable settlement of wrongful death if you are not familiar. After the death of a loved one, it’s important that you seek experienced legal counsel. At Youman & Caputo, our Philadelphia wrongful death lawyers understand the law involved in wrongful death claims and how to get results on behalf of our clients. We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning we charge no fees unless we successfully resolve your case. Call today for a free and confidential consultation. Our attorneys will listen to the facts surrounding your case and explain your options.
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