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Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Many criminal laws are meant to protect individuals - and society as a whole - from harm. For example, laws against murder and manslaughter are in place to ensure justice for victims. But there are also civil laws that allow victims and their loved ones to recover damages for injuries caused by someone else's wrongful acts. For example, if someone dies due to the misconduct or negligence of another, they may file a wrongful death action.

In Pennsylvania, an action may be brought to recover damages when someone dies because of the "wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another." It's important to note, however, that you're barred from filing a wrongful death lawsuit for a deceased person if that person had already recovered for the same damages while they were alive. On a related note, Pennsylvania also explicitly prohibits actions for wrongful birth and wrongful life.

Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Laws: The Basics

When you have a legal question, it's important to read the actual text of the law. But it can be equally as important to read an overview of the law in plain language. The following chart provides an overview of the laws that relate to wrongful death claims in Pennsylvania as well as links to relevant statutes.

Statute(s)

Pennsylvania Statutes, Tile 42 Pa.C.S.A.:

  • Part VI, Chapter 55, Subchapter B, Section 5524 (Two Year Limitation)
  • Part VII, Chapter 83, Subchapter A, Section 8301 (Death Action)
Statute of Limitations

A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years.

Right of Action

The right of action for a wrongful death claim only exists for the children, spouse, or parents of the deceased. If, however, no such person exists, a personal representative of the deceased may bring an action to recover for reasonable medical, funeral, and estate administration expenses that have been necessitated by reason of injuries causing death.

Special Damages

In addition to other damages, a plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for reasonable expenses related to:

  • Hospital stays;
  • Nursing care;
  • Medical care;
  • Funeral arrangements; and/or
  • Administration of the estate.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Laws: Related Resources

If you'd like more information and resources related to this topic, you can visit the links provided below.

Get Legal Help with Your Wrongful Death Case in Pennsylvania

While money won't replace the loss of a loved one, it can help to cover various expenses that may have resulted from the death. If you think you may have a claim for wrongful death, it's best to speak with a local personal injury attorney to find out how Pennsylvania wrongful death laws apply to your unique situation.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.