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When can a car accident lead to a wrongful death claim?

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2024 | Wrongful Death

Car accidents happen all the time. While most accident victims walk away with nothing more than minor scratches (or no injuries at all), others sustain fatal injuries. 

If a loved one succumbs to injuries following an accident that is not their fault, you may pursue the liable party for damages through a wrongful death claim. But when exactly can you bring this claim?

Understanding wrongful death claims

Basically, a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that is brought against another person or entity for causing death. In Pennsylvania, a wrongful death claim can be brought by the decedent’s estate’s representative on behalf of their beneficiaries (spouse, children or parents.)

Wrongful death and car crashes

As to whether a fatal car crash can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit or not boils down to the defendant’s behaviors. That said, here are driver behaviors that can justify a wrongful death claim:

  • If the defendant was operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other inebriating substance
  • If the defendant was reckless (speeding, changing lanes without notifying other road users, making illegal turns or violating basic traffic rules like running the red line)
  • If the defendant knowingly operated a faulty vehicle
  • If the defendant was speeding

Most of these driver behaviors are criminal as well. Thus, besides civil action, they might also face criminal charges. 

A loved one’s sudden death can leave everyone in shock. However, it is important to understand that time is of the essence. Part of bringing a successful claim involves acting within the statute of limitations period. And in the Keystone State, you have two years from the date of a loved one’s death to act.

A loved one’s death can leave you devastated. Understanding Pennsylvania’s wrongful death laws can help you safeguard your rights and interests while holding the liable party accountable. 


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