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Who can file a wrongful death suit in Pennsylvania?

Pittsburgh families who have lost loved ones know how painful it can be to resume day-to-day life after tragedy. It can be even more painful knowing that the person's death could have been prevented if it wasn't for the negligence or misconduct of another person. Fortunately, there is a way for families to get some justice and begin to move forward with their lives.

Families can file successful wrongful death suits in civil court even if the defendant was found not guilty in criminal court. Wrongful death suits can take place in civil court after a criminal trial. In criminal court, a defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However in civil court, lawsuits are held to a lower standard of proof. A defendant could be held civilly liable if the jury finds him at fault by a preponderance of the evidence.

A successful wrongful death suit requires that the plaintiff show the death of a person caused by another's negligence. They must also show that surviving family members are suffering a monetary injury because of the death. A personal representative must also have been appointed for the decedent's estate.

According to the Pennsylvania wrongful death statute, only a decedent's spouse, children, parent or personal representative can file a wrongful death suit to recover damages. The statute allows for the recovery of reasonable hospital, medical and funeral expenses. The damages will be distributed to the beneficiaries.

While no amount of damages will ever bring back a lost loved one, families can take comfort in knowing that those who were responsible were held liable for their actions. After a fatal accident causes the loss of a loved one, family members should seek guidance about their rights and legal remedies. This will ensure their rights and interests are preserved and protected.

Source: The Pennsylvania Code, "Chapter 2200. Actions for Wrongful Death," accessed on Nov. 25, 2014

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