Wrongful Death and Survival in Pennsylvania
When a loved one dies as a result of another person’s conduct, the beneficiaries or heirs can bring two types of actions against the person responsible: wrongful death and survival actions.
Wrongful Death Claims:
Wrongful death actions are designed to compensate the survivors of the decedent as a result of the decedent’s death. This includes loss of contribution (food, shelter, clothing, education etc.) and pecuniary losses.
To file a wrongful death action in Pennsylvania the beneficiary, such as a surviving spouse, child, parent, guardian or personal representative, must show:
- Death was caused by the defendant’s conduct, whether intentional or unintentional
- Defendant owed a level of care to the decedent and therefore being liable for the death.
- Presence of surviving beneficiaries such as spouse, children, parents, etc.
- Monetary damages have resulted from the death.
Survival claims differ from wrongful death claims in that it arises out of the original injury rather than the death of the victim. The estate of the decedent, rather than the beneficiaries, recovers for the loss of earning power, pain and suffering, and medical care and services incurred before death.
Survival claims are not a new cause of action, but a continuation of the right of action to the decedent and can only be brought by the personal representative, or administrator of the estate. The damages in a survival action are distributed according to the decedent’s will or according to the intestate laws if there is no valid will.