Lost a Loved One?

Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Lawyer Explains Legal Options

Video Transcript:


Stewart Eisenberg:

Children who are young, that lose a father or a mother, and the loss of a father or mother is substantial.

Rob Rosenthal:

If you've lost a loved one and you think you have a wrongful death case, how do you find out and what do you need to know? Well, we're gonna find out right now, because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer. Hi again everybody, I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers.com. My guest is Philadelphia attorney Stewart Eisenberg. I wanna remind you right off the top, if you wanna ask Stewart questions about your specific situation, just go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up in the upper right and corner that says Ask a Lawyer, and it'll walk you right through the very simple process right there. Stewart, it's good to see as always, thank you for making some time to help us out. 

Stewart Eisenberg:

Thank you, Rob. 

Rob Rosenthal:

So let's just start with maybe a little definition, you say wrongful death, it sounds self-explanatory, but tell us from a legal standpoint, what is a wrongful death case, what does that mean?

Stewart Eisenberg:

Well, any time that someone dies in an accident or some sort of incident, you have to bring what's called a wrongful death case, because you have no person to file a lawsuit on behalf. So if someone is killed or someone dies either in the hospital or on the roadway, in an accident, at work, in a construction site, then the family would come to us and come to a lawyer, and we would discuss all the aspects of what they are entitled to, what the possibilities are for their loved one who is no longer here, so that's... Any time anyone dies, that's what's called a wrongful death case.

Rob Rosenthal:

So what is different as far about the case, say, from a catastrophic injury case, is it just that there's not a living victim?

Stewart Eisenberg:

Well, there's a number of things that are different also, other than the fact that the person who died is represented by usually a family member, whether it's a husband or wife or brother or sister, mother or father, or children, those people are called the representatives, and those representatives really they are the ones that bring the lawsuit and are the ones who have an interest in the lawsuit. In other words, there are also differences in damages that you can recover in a wrongful death as opposed to a regular personal injury, catastrophic injury case. And those damages are very, very different because the person is not living anymore, so future damages are calculated differently and past damages are calculated differently, so that's a number of things that are different than a regular catastrophic injury case where you represent the person who is either in the wheelchair or brain injured, something like that. 

Rob Rosenthal:

So let's talk about the damages a little bit, what damages are available in a wrongful death case?

Stewart Eisenberg:

Well, there's usually two aspects to damages. One is that the damages that the person who died lost and is entitled to recover, that is any pain and suffering that they underwent before they actually died, so if a person is involved in an accident and their rush to the hospital and they live for a week, then there is a right to be covered all the pain and suffering that they endure during that week's time, but that's the extent of the pain and suffering damages. The future damages are ones that are recoverable by the estate, which is the survivors can recover the person's lost earnings, the person's loss of what we call guidance and tutelage, which is the decedent, whether it's a mother or father or sister or brother was giving to the family, the loss to the family of that person being around and contributing to the household, contributing to the lives of those who really depended on him or her and have suffered that loss as a result of that person dying.

Rob Rosenthal:

You would think that some of those damages are would be especially challenging to prove. Is that the case?

Stewart Eisenberg:

Yes, they are. But there are specific things that you can do to recover those types of damages. We usually use an expert in... Usually a pathologist or a coroner who can tell us and tell the jury what happened to the person right up to the time that they died, whether it's instantaneously, whether it's a few minutes, a few seconds, a few days or weeks after the accident, that person and a doctor can usually tell us what the person is suffering, how much pain they were in, and that will get us to really explain to the jury how much this person did suffer and how much is the family and the survivors are entitled to recover. In terms of the future damages, that's usually loss of earnings and earning capacity, so if someone was earning $50,000 a year at the time they died and they were 40 years old, you can project those earnings out for another 20, 30 years and maybe even longer. And that's done by an economist, usually who knows wages, who knows how to project numbers and can give you a good idea of what that person would have earned during his or her lifetime, and that earnings, those earnings are also lost to the family and they are entitled to recover that in a wrongful death case.

Rob Rosenthal:

What about loss of consortium? I've heard of that. Explain what that is, and is that something that can be recovered?

Stewart Eisenberg:

Loss of consortium usually is not recovered in a wrongful death case, but there's an equivalent in a death case called loss of services society and companionship. And that is a specific term, it's usually used, and whether it's a spouse, well, it is a spouse that has lost that, but that's not only limited to a spouse, like loss of consortium is just the loss that a married couple suffers when one of them is injured, but in a wrongful death case, it's more than just a spouse, it's anyone who is living in the household, a lot of times it's children, children who are young, that lose a father or a mother, and the loss of a father or mother is substantial, and the jury can make an award for that amount and evidence is usually used to describe what the person did around the house, what the person did with the children, what the person did in the community and with their relatives. So there's a lot that goes into loss of companionship society and guidance.

Rob Rosenthal:

What is the statute of limitations for a wrongful death case?

Stewart Eisenberg:

Normally it's two years from the date of death, so it really could be longer than two years from the date of the accident if person died a week later or a month later. The law in most states is that you have two years from the time a person dies to bring a lawsuit, there are exceptions, but two years is generally the time that's allowed by the law.

Rob Rosenthal:

Does it ever happen Stewart where somebody has a catastrophic injury case that becomes the wrongful death case?

Stewart Eisenberg:

Yeah, so if someone is injured in an accident and is seriously hurt and taken to the hospital, and they linger there, or they go there and even recover somewhat, and let's say they go to a rehab facility, but they just don't get any better and a year later that they die as a result of those injuries, that becomes a wrongful death case, and you can recover up to the time of death also, but most of the damages are related to what the person lost as a result of dying as a result of the family losing the loved one like that.

Rob Rosenthal:

Right. Why is it important, Stewart, to have an attorney help you that has experience in wrongful death cases? What can they do for you?

Stewart Eisenberg:

Well, the law is complicated, as we discussed previously, there's all sorts of things that have to be proved and all sorts of items that are elements of damage, so in order to prove liability, which we haven't talked too much about, but that's the case. That's true in any case, whether it's a wrongful death or or not a wrongful death case, you have to prove that someone was at fault for causing the injury, so those things you need a lawyer for, you usually need expert witnesses. You have to expend a lot of money for those services of those witnesses, and then of course, what we talked about in terms of future damages with the economics and an economist and a pathologist and a physician to talk about the medical issues. So it's very important for you to get an experienced lawyer who's done this in the past and who's been successful.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of really helpful information as always Stewart, I thank you so much for making some time to answer our questions. I appreciate it.

Stewart Eisenberg:

Thank you Rob, it's a pleasure.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's gonna do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Stewart Eisenberg from Philadelphia. Remember, if you wanna ask Stewart specific questions about your situation, it's easy to do, go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the button in the upper right hand corner that says Ask a Lawyer and it'll walk you right through the process right here. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask the Lawyers.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


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