Who Can Bring a Lawsuit for Damages after an Accidental Death in Pennsylvania?
When someone dies in an accident caused by the carelessness or negligence of another person, it can have far-reaching consequences. While immediate family members may suffer because of the loss of financial support, guidance or companionship, friends and others may feel a tremendous emotional loss as well.
In the aftermath of an accidental or wrongful death, the law provides a mechanism to hold the wrongdoer accountable—a wrongful death lawsuit. But how broad is the scope of a wrongful death action? Can anyone who experienced a loss seek compensation in court?
Standing in a Wrongful Death Action in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, as in other states, a person must have legal “standing” to sue for any type of loss. To have the necessary standing, you must be considered a “real party in interest,” someone with a real and actual loss, as well as the right to enforce a claim for that loss.
Under Pennsylvania law, a wrongful death claim must be filed by the personal representative or executor of the deceased’s estate. Typically, that person will be named in the will, but the court may appoint a personal representative if there is no will. The personal representative, however, acts only on behalf of the beneficiaries of the estate. Those beneficiaries are the ones who are considered to be real parties in interest. According to the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, the only individuals considered to be real parties in interest are the spouse, the children and the parents of the victim. Siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews and other family members generally have no right to compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.
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At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus, we offer experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel to individuals in Pennsylvania. To set up an appointment for a free initial consultation, call us at 610-565-4055 or contact us online.
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