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How do I file a successful wrongful death suit?

Every year, people in the Pittsburgh area are killed in tragic road accidents. Families are left devastated, unsure of where to turn. Fortunately, the legal system allows families to file wrongful death suits that allow them to obtain compensation for their losses. While the damages recovered cannot bring back a lost loved one, they can at least help the families recover financially.

In order for a wrongful death suit to be successful, the family must prove a few elements. First, they must show that there was a death of another human being and that a personal representative has been appointed for the decedent's estate. Next, they must show that this death was caused by another party's negligence or with intent to cause harm. Lastly, they must show that surviving family members are suffering monetarily because of the person's death.

Wrongful death suits are often filed after car or plane accidents. They may also be filed as a result of medical malpractice, occupational exposure to hazardous conditions or substances, or criminal behavior.

Once a wrongful death suit is filed, a jury will hear the evidence and determine the damages to be awarded. However, the jury's determination may be adjusted by the court for various reasons. The age, life expectancy, and earning capacity of the deceased will be considered, as well as many other factors. For example, if an adult with dependents passes away in a car accident, the jury may consider his earnings at the time of his death and potential future earnings. If the deceased was unemployed, the jury will look at his past earnings. The recovery in this scenario will likely be based on the loss of income and loss of parental guidance. Determining these damages can be challenging, but courts will do everything in their power to make sure that the family of the decedent is fairly compensated.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed on Sept. 9, 2014.

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