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  • Wrongful Death

    Losing a loved one is never easy on surviving family members and friends. When a loved one’s death was preventable, the loss becomes even more unbearable. Thousands of individuals die each day as a result of someone else’s carelessness or negligence. In legal terms, claims arising from these deaths are referred to as wrongful death cases. When a wrongful death occurs, surviving family members often have the right to file a civil lawsuit against the negligent parties.

    At Galfand Berger LLP, we represent surviving family members whose loved ones have died as a result of a wide range of causes, including but not limited to the following:

    Too often, the loss of a family member leaves uncertainty for the surviving family. Medical expenses, loss of income, childcare, and other living expenses place a severe financial burden on an injury victim’s family. By filing a wrongful death suit, families can obtain compensation for their loss and hold negligent parties accountable for their actions.

    Who can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

    Not every individual who lost a loved one can bring a wrongful death claim. State law usually requires a single personal representative of the deceased person’s estate to file the claim on behalf of all beneficiaries. The personal representative of the estate is typically the executor, if the deceased person died with a will; or administrator, who is appointed by the court, of the deceased’s estate.

    Beneficiaries typically include spouses, children, parents, brothers, sisters, or other extended family members or friends named in a will or trust document.

    Personal representatives must file the wrongful death claim within a strict time period. These time periods vary by state, so we urge a victim’s family members to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney right away.

    How are Recoverable Damage Amounts Calculated?

    No amount of money can replace the life of a loved one. While it is impossible to place a monetary value on a life, wrongful death claims allow family members to seek compensation for their loss. Common factors considered in calculating recoverable damages include the following:

    • Lost wages and benefits the deceased would have earned during their lifetime had they not passed away
    • Compensation for the loss of household services
    • Medical expenses
    • Hospital expenses
    • Funeral expenses
    • Burial expenses
    • Estate administration expenses
    • Loss of companionship, support, guidance, comfort, or consortium
    • Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before they died

    Calculating damages due under the law is a complex task that depends upon the circumstances of the case. Other factors that may be considered include the victim’s age, health, and trauma experienced by the surviving family members.

    How Do I Know if I Have a Valid Wrongful Death Claim?

    The best way for family members to learn about their legal rights is by seeking the assistance of experienced legal counsel. Failing to timely file a claim or follow the legal requirements can result in the family forfeiting their rights. Your attorney will help prove the following to have a valid wrongful death claim:

    • Negligence. Death was caused by another person’s negligence or intentional harm.
    • Breach of duty. The negligent party must be shown to have owed a duty of care or safety to the victim.
    • Cause. Negligence caused the victim’s death.
    • Damages. Medical bills, paystubs, funeral expenses, and other documentation must be provided, along with evidence of the emotional and mental anguish endured by the beneficiaries.

    Wrongful death suits are typically complex cases brought against negligent parties, such as individuals, businesses, health care providers, manufacturers, and government agencies. Many times, these negligent parties have teams of lawyers paid by powerful insurance companies. They are motivated to minimize the damages paid to surviving family members. That is why it is important for you to have the help of experienced lawyers.

    Causes for Wrongful Death Claims InfographicWhich Types of Cases are Handled by Wrongful Death Lawyers?

    Our firm has the resources, knowledge, and experience to confidently pursue any type of wrongful death claim, no matter how complex. We have achieved significant results for surviving family members in lawsuits involving work injuries, defective products and machinery, medical malpractice, premises liability accidents, and motor vehicle accidents.

    Fatalities Due to Work Injuries

    When an employee dies as a result of on-the-job injuries, family members often think their rights are limited by Workers’ Compensation law. That is not always the case. If someone other than an employer is responsible for your family member’s death, you may be able to sue that third party, in addition to collecting Workers’ Compensation death benefits. The third party may be a manufacturer of unsafe equipment, a seller of dangerous chemicals, or a contractor or subcontractor working on the employer’s premises.

    Examples of cases involving fatal workplace injuries won by Galfand Berger LLP include the following:

    • Fatally burned worker. The family of a maintenance worker and his co-worker shared in the recovery of a $10.65 million dollar settlement paid by four companies in an accident at an automotive battery company that left one man dead and another man burnt in both of his thigh areas. Of the settlement, $6.6 million went to the family of the deceased worker while $4 million went to the burnt production worker.
    • Crushed by a railcar. A worker was crushed under a railcar that was used to move scrap at a steel mill. Our attorneys obtained a $3 million settlement for the deceased worker’s widow, arguing that the owner and operator of the railcar system was negligent. Our team reached this settlement through mediation.
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    It is important to note that third parties, not the worker’s employer, are liable in wrongful death claims that involve workplace accidents. While Workers’ Compensation shields employers from liability, this legal protection does not apply to negligent third parties.

    Defective Products

    Defective products cause hundreds of thousands of injuries and fatalities each year. Consumers may be familiar with automobile recalls, defective airbags, and dangerous toys. However, defective parts and machines in the workplace also cause injury and death. The following cases filed by Galfand Berger LLP on behalf of surviving family members illustrate the deadly harm caused by defective products in the workplace.

    Workplace explosion. A large steel producing machine exploded, killing one worker, and severely burning two others. Galfand Berger LLP attorney, Richard Jurewicz, was counsel and recovered $36 million on behalf of his client.
    Electrocution due to faulty switchgear. A field electrician employed by a contractor in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was fatally electrocuted when installing a switchgear in a new building. Evidence obtained by our attorneys proved that the switchgear was improperly manufactured. The amount obtained in a confidential settlement for the widow and her two daughters was one of the highest pre-trial settlements in Pennsylvania involving wrongful death.
    For more information pertaining to our defective products cases, please click here.

    Medical Malpractice

    Recent studies estimate that more than 250,000 people die each year in the U.S. because of medical errors. Galfand Berger LLP has helped families obtain compensation for such errors, including:

    Incorrect diagnosis. A man went to the doctor complaining of heart attack symptoms. The physician told the man he was suffering from indigestion. The man died as a result of a heart attack. Our attorneys obtained a settlement of $800,000 for the man’s family.

    Motor Vehicle Accidents

    Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of personal injury deaths for Americans between age five to 34 years. More than 30,000 people die nationwide on the road each year, and many of these accidents are due to another driver’s negligence. Although truck accidents are less common, they are far more likely to result in fatalities to the occupants of the vehicle hit by the truck. Our attorneys have achieved major settlements in fatal car accident cases brought by surviving family members, such as the following:

    Construction zone accident. A truck pulled onto a highway at night from an unmarked turnaround in a construction zone. The victim was killed on impact. Galfand Berger LLP obtained a $2 million settlement for the victim’s family.

    Premises Liability

    Injury and death may result from dangerous conditions on someone else’s property. The responsibilities of a property owner to maintain a safe premises are wide-ranging, including proper installation and maintenance of stairways, floors, pavements, and lighting. Bar and restaurant owners, as well as purveyors of alcohol, may be held liable for selling drinks to customers who appear drunk.

    Our legal team obtained a $1.75 million settlement on behalf of the family of a young college student who died because of a fall down a flight of stairs.. The owner of the premises was found negligent due to the failure to install a handrail on the stairs. Our attorneys established that the property had been condemned for several violations, including lack of staircase handrails.

    If you suspect that the death of a loved one was caused by some form of negligence, our wrongful death lawyers can answer any questions you might have and ensure that your legal rights are protected. In some cases, someone’s death is the result of a criminal act or other type of intentional harm. Surviving family members may have legal grounds to file a civil lawsuit, even if criminal charges have already been filed as a result of the wrongful death.

    Can I File a Wrongful Death Suit in a Criminal Case?

    Negligent parties that cause the death of innocent victims are sometimes guilty of criminal acts. For example, a drunk driver who fatally struck a pedestrian may be sent to jail for driving while intoxicated. A person may intentionally commit homicide and face criminal prosecution for the victim’s death.

    In cases such as these, the state files a criminal lawsuit against the perpetrator. Surviving family members may also file a civil suit. The purpose of a civil suit is to seek financial compensation, while the purpose of a criminal charge is to penalize the perpetrators and prevent them from inflicting further harm on society. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can help surviving family members determine whether it makes sense to file a civil claim in the case of a death that has been tied to a criminal act.

    Philadelphia Wrongful Death Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Advocate for Family Members Who Lost a Loved One

    If your loved one died as a result of the negligence of another, the experienced Philadelphia wrongful death lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP are dedicated to helping surviving family members throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a free consultation today, call us at 800-222-8792 or submit an online inquiry form. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we help clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.