Few drivers of cars, motorcycles or SUVs are ever thrilled about sharing the road with large commercial trucks and eighteen-wheelers, but the use of big rigs to carry goods is an integral part of the American economy. While most of the time passenger vehicles and commercial trucks can co-exist, when there is an accident or collision involving a large truck the results are typically grim. The large size and massive weights of these vehicles often lead to severe injuries and wrongful death when an accident occurs.
What Damages can be Recovered in a Commercial Trucking Wrongful Death Action?
Under the common law from which Pennsylvania and U.S. law developed, a person was not permitted to bring suit for the losses suffered due to the death of a loved one. However, Pennsylvania’s legislature and modern law has corrected this peculiarity by enacting a Wrongful Death Act.
The Wrongful Death Act allows a child, spouse or parent to sue for the losses they suffer after the death of their close family member.Wrongful death damages may include funeral expenses, expenses incurred in the administration of the deceased’s estate, and medical expenses.
Additionally, other pecuniary losses, or the loss experienced when a bread-winner is killed. Part of pecuniary damages are those of the loss of contribution the surviving plaintiff would have received from the time of the decedent’s death to the date of the award. These damages could include:
- Rent for an apartment
- Mortgage payments for a home
- Medical treatment
Another type of pecuniary loss can include the present value of the services that the deceased would have rendered to the family if he or she had survived. Pennsylvania courts interpret the term services broadly and do not constrain it to simply mean the tasks and other things that you do for a household. In Rettger the court held that services was not limited to tasks such as the yard work that was at issue. Rather, services also includes the deep emotional and psychological loss when the plaintiff knows that negligence caused the parent, spouse or child’s death. Rettger v. UPMC, 991 A.2d 915 (Pa. Super. 2010).
However, because a wrongful death action is focus on the losses suffered by the surviving family member or members, the pain and suffering of the deceased individual is not typically relevant or available. However, in many instances, damages for your loved one’s pain and suffering may be available through a survival action.
Survival Actions Are Often Filed Together With a Wrongful Death Suit
Although damages for pain and suffering are not available in wrongful death actions, they are in a survival action. Pennsylvania’s Survival Act, permits a cause of action to remain despite the death of the individual. Through a survival action one may, “recover damages for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another”. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8301. However, pain and suffering that was not experienced because the individual was unconscious, unaware, or killed instantly is not compensable. Pain and suffering that the decedent was aware of and experienced is, however, compensable.
Put Our Wrongful Death Experience to Work for You
If a loved one has been killed because of the carelessness or recklessness of another motorist or due to an auto defect, you may be able to recover monetary damages. To schedule a free and confidential case evaluation with a Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney, call the law offices of Reiff & Bily at (215) 274-0072, or contact us online.