Philadelphia personal injury lawyer, Brent Wieand, has handled hundreds of personal injury cases in his career. In this article, Brent talks about the unique and unfortunate circumstance when a personal injury lawsuit turns into a wrongful death lawsuit.
Personal injury lawsuits are claims for injuries that were caused by another person’s negligence or carelessness. Personal injury claims are often brought as a result of car accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, and defective products. In the majority of personal injury claims, the claimant, who is also known as the plaintiff, suffers an injury for which they seek compensation in the form of a settlement or jury award. A settlement or award is intended to compensate the victim for his/her harms and losses incurred because of the defendant’s negligence.
However, in some unfortunate instances, a personal injury claimant later dies as a result of injuries sustained in the incident, or from an unrelated event. When this happens there are substantive and procedural issues that must be taken into account.
Although it may go without saying, if a personal injury victim dies, he or she no longer has the power to bring a claim for his/her injuries. Instead, the right to bring a lawsuit is vested in the administrator (or administratrix) of that person’s estate. A person may be appointed as the administrator of an estate by the decedent prior to his/her death, or if this has not been done, the heirs or beneficiaries may file a petition to have an administrator appointed posthumously as provided for by statute.
If the personal injury victim’s death was caused by the acts or events which lead to the underlying personal injury claim, then the victim’s death will result in a new “wrongful death” claim. Under these circumstances, the person’s heirs and beneficiaries may be compensated for both survival damages and the wrongful death of their loved one or family member. However, even if the victim’s death was not related to the underlying claim, the administrator of the estate may still seek to recover damages for the pain and suffering incurred by their loved one prior to death.
Once an estate is raised, the administrator will need to file a lawsuit (or amend the lawsuit) on behalf of the estate within the prescribed statute of limitations. If a lawsuit is not filed before the statute of limitations expires, the estate will lose the right to bring a claim on behalf of the decedent.
When a personal injury lawsuit turns into a wrongful death lawsuit, there are certain procedural matters that will need to be addressed. These requirements vary from state to state and often have strict time limitations. Thus, it is wise to promptly consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in your state who can provide you with the legal expertise needed to protect your rights.
Thanks to the authors at The Wieand Law Firm LLC for their insight into Personal Injury law.