Often times the death of a loved one is a result of the negligence of another. These potential claims may arise out of medical negligence (medical malpractice) or through the negligent operation of a motor vehicle. The personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file a lawsuit to recover damages on behalf of the decedent and the decedent’s loved ones. The personal injury lawsuit usually includes two causes of action: wrongful death action and survival action.
A wrongful death action seeks to compensate a decedent’s loved ones for the death of the decedent. These actions are to compensate the family for the economic loss (hospital expenses, nursing costs, funeral expenses) of a loved one and lost companionship. The decedent’s heirs receive their share of the wrongful death proceeds as directed in Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws. The potential beneficiaries of a wrongful death award are limited to the spouse, children, and/or parents of the decedent. Damages from a wrongful death claim are not taxable because they are not considered to be income to the beneficiaries. Additionally, as wrongful death proceeds pass directly to the beneficiaries they are not subject to the probate process.
Survival actions are causes of action that the decedent would have been able to bring for his or her injuries had they survived. The damages related to a survival action include the decedent’s pain and suffering and lost wages. The proceeds received in a survival action are administered through the probate process. The survival action proceeds are then distributed to the decedent’s heirs as identified in a will or per the Pennsylvania laws of intestacy if there is no will. Damages in a survival action are subject to the Pennsylvania inheritance tax and the federal estate tax. The proceeds can also be used to satisfy claims of any estate creditors.
If you or someone you know is/are the survivor(s) of someone who has died due to negligence in a wrongful death, it is in your best interest to speak to an experienced attorney to evaluate the potential case. Contact Metzger Wickersham for a free consultation where our attorneys are equipped to help you navigate the legal issues following the loss of a loved one.