Deaths due to accidents or mistakes are often sudden and traumatic for family members. Sometimes, the person who caused the accident or made the mistake did so because he or she was not taking appropriate care to keep from harming others.

In these situations, the family may be able to hold that person responsible for the actions that led to the death of the loved one.

Wrongful death criteria

In order to prove wrongful death, the plaintiff must establish that a person died and that another person’s misconduct or negligence caused the death. Furthermore, the plaintiff needs to show that the death caused surviving family members to experience financial injury. A personal representative for the deceased’s estate must file the lawsuit on the family’s behalf. According to the law in Pennsylvania, a person must file a wrongful death claim within two years from the time the death occurred.

Wrongful death can occur under various circumstances. These can include medical malpractice and traffic accidents.

Medical malpractice

When a medical professional’s conduct fails to meet the accepted standard of care, he or she is guilty of medical malpractice. The medical professional could make mistakes when performing surgery, administering medication, or attempting to diagnose a disease.

Because medical malpractice can cause a patient’s death, it can also lead to a wrongful death claim. Most claims charge the medical professional with being negligent. Medical negligence exists if he or she had a duty to the now-deceased patient, demonstrated dereliction of that duty, and directly caused damage because of his or her misconduct.

Traffic accidents

A survey of drivers in the U.S. showed that more people are using their phones for internet access while they drive. In Pennsylvania, distracted driving is a leading cause of car crashes. Because texting while driving can cause fatal traffic accidents, Pennsylvania law does not permit drivers to send and receive texts while they drive. The state does not have a hands-free law, however, so drivers can legally use their phones for other purposes while driving.

In the case of a traffic accident, a successful wrongful death lawsuit must show that a driver other than the deceased caused the accident. It must also show that this driver was at fault by acting wrongfully or negligently, as would likely occur if the driver was distracted.