Assault and battery is a crime in the state of Pennsylvania. When an assault is fatal, the accused party may face murder or manslaughter charges in criminal court. Regardless of the outcome of the criminal proceedings – whether or not the accused is found guilty or not – the family of a fatal assault victim can file a claim for wrongful death damages against the defendant.
What constitutes assault under Pennsylvania law?
Under Pennsylvania Code Chapter 27, simple assault is defined as attempting to cause bodily harm to another person; negligently causing bodily harm to another with a deadly weapon; or threatening to cause serious bodily harm to another person. When the assault leads to the death of another person, the crime may be considered to be murder or manslaughter under Pennsylvania’s criminal code.
However, while a conviction in criminal court can be used as evidence in civil court, the same standards need not be adhered to in proving the defendant’s guilt. In criminal court, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime. In civil court, it needs only be established that the defendant did something that could be considered negligent – like assaulting a person – and that the negligent action was the direct cause of the victim’s death. Title 42 of Pennsylvania’s Code Section 8301 states that an action for wrongful death may be brought against a person when the death was caused by the, “wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another…”
Laws for Filing a Wrongful Death Action for Fatal Assault and Battery
The only person who can file a wrongful death action for a fatal assault and battery in Pennsylvania is the personal representative of the deceased. The personal representative of the deceased can file the claim for damages on behalf of the deceased’s beneficiaries, including a surviving spouse and children. In the event that a personal representative does not file a wrongful death action within six months of the deceased’s date of death, then any beneficiaries have the right to file the wrongful death action on their own.
Regardless of who files a wrongful death suit for damages, all wrongful death lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania must be filed within two years’ time of the date of the deceased’s death. As mentioned above, the liability of the defendant must be established by proving that the defendant acted negligently or unlawfully.
Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Action
If the defendant is held liable for the wrongful death of the deceased, then the deceased’s beneficiaries are eligible to recover damages for the following.
- Burial or funeral expenses
- Medical expenses associated with the assault
- Estate expenses
- Loss of the deceased’s wages, services, contributions and guidance
- Emotional damages for pain and suffering
The amount of damages that a person can receive in a wrongful death lawsuit varies on a case-by-case basis, but all economic damages will be compensated in full in the event that the defendant is held liable.
How a Civil Litigation Attorney Can Help After a Fatal Assault and Battery
When an assault is fatal, it is likely that a prosecutor will bring charges against the suspect. However, a criminal conviction does not result in damages for surviving family members – in order to recover damages, civil action must be taken. As such, a civil litigation attorney who specializes in wrongful death cases is a must.
The attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC understand what your family is going through, and we want to help you recover the financial compensation that you need. Please call us now to schedule a free meeting with our legal team today by dialing 215-642-2335.