Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things a person can endure. If you’ve lost a loved one because of the negligence of someone else, you may be entitled to recover damages via a wrongful death claim.
Under Pennsylvania’s wrongful death laws, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate may bring a civil action against the party at fault for the wrongful death. However, the process and paperwork involved in filing a wrongful death claim can be complex. Below is a brief overview of some of the paperwork that may be required.
Setting up an Estate
Pennsylvania allows personal representatives of deceased persons who have died with or without a will to set up an estate. In order to establish an estate, the personal representative of the deceased should appear before the Register of Wills and present a probate petition.
If the petition is granted, the next step is to open an estate bank account, for which you will need to apply for a Federal Tax Identification Number. For most banks, the Letters Testamentary (if there is a will) or Letters of Administration (if there is no will) plus two forms of identification should be proof enough for you to open the account.
When pursuing a wrongful death claim and survival action, some of the damages awarded in the cases will go to the estate rather than directly to the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries may later recover compensation from the estate based on the decedent’s will or intestate laws that determine distribution of estate assets.
Proof of Death and Proof of Relationship to the Deceased
A copy of the death certificate should suffice to prove the individual’s death, and you must also provide proof of your relationship to the deceased, as well as other family members’ relationship to the deceased.
Under Pennsylvania law, a personal representative (which may be a family member) brings a wrongful death claim for the benefit of the decedent’s spouse, children, and/or parents. Thus, establishing a relationship to the deceased is important to recover compensation.
Your relationship might influence the damages you recover in the wrongful death claim. For example, children may recover damages related to loss of parental guidance. A spouse might recover damages related to loss of services or loss of consortium.
Filing the Wrongful Death Claim
During a wrongful death claim, you may see a lot of different types of forms, policies, and procedures. If you believe your loved one was the victim of wrongful death, you may need an attorney to help you file your claim against the defendant. You may need to file your petition with the court, papers to serve the defendant to notify him or her of the lawsuit, and handle other legal procedures in order to file your claim.
During the wrongful death claim, you may also have to deal with responses to the defendant’s claims and more. You’ll also need to collect evidence to prove damages as well as fault for the wrongful death.
Evidence that may be required to prove a wrongful death claim includes:
- medical receipts;
- medical records;
- proof of wages;
- a police report; and
- accident reports.
Further, if the decedent had an open personal injury claim prior to death that has not yet been resolved, you may need to file appropriate paperwork to convert it to a survival action.
The attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC help Doylestown residents dealing with a loved one’s death pursue fair compensation for their losses in a wrongful death claim as well as survival action. Call us at 215-642-2335 or contact us online to set up a free consultation to review your case.