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By Shaheen Wallace, Esq. April 23, 2020

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When a family member dies as a result of someone’s negligence, it can often leave a family deep in grief. The loss of a family member can also mean the loss of a lifelong companion, a parent, a provider, and protector. When this happens, a family needs justice to be done. Although money cannot replace the love of a family member, it is how we hold wrongdoers accountable. If you are in this situation, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? 

In Pennsylvania, the executor of the estate can file suit, and if there is no executor of an estate, an eligible family member can.

Who is an eligible family member?

In Pennsylvania, eligible family members include: (1) Spouse; (2) Children; (3) Parents.

Who can recover damages is controlled by the laws of intestacy in Pennsylvania. For example, if the decedent is married with children, the spouse and the children recover a certain percentage based on the intestacy laws and parents recover othing. If, in the same example, there are no children and no parents, the spouse would recover everything.

How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?

You have two years from the date of the family member’s passing to file suit.

What damages are recoverable for wrongful death?

The family members are able to recover these specific damages for wrongful death:

-Medical, funeral, burial costs

  • Estate administration costs

  • Lost wages and benefits (and future lost wages)

  • Loss of household services and companionship

  • Pain and suffering

What is a survival action?

If wrongful death is a claim that the family can bring, a survival action should be thought of as the claim the decedent would have been able to bring had they survived.

For example, after a serious injury, some victims are hospitalized for months–even years. Their suffering can last a long time before they succumb to their injuries. A survival action would allow the estate to bring a claim for the pain and suffering of the decedent for the time between the incident and the date of their passing. Any recovery under a survival action goes directly to the estate instead of directly to a family member. The recovery is then divided according to the will or the laws of intestacy.


If you ever experienced the hurt from suddenly losing a loved one, know that we are here to help you. Experiencing the devastating loss of a family member can be a trying time, so it is important that you focus on taking care of the family and leave the worrying to us. We are available to speak with you via video conference, text or telephone. Call us or send us a message, or visit our website at


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