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The Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania Wrongful Death and Survival Cases

Death of a loved one is one of the hardest things to face, especially when the death resulted from another person or business’ negligence or wrongful acts. Deaths are common in all types of accidents, involving:

  • medical malpractice,
  • workplace accidents,
  • car or motorcycle accidents,
  • defective premises, and
  • products liability.

The laws of Pennsylvania allow for certain surviving family members to bring a wrongful death action and/or a survival action. In 1992, the Pennsylvania Superior Court summarized the differences between wrongful death and survival actions in Frey v. Pennsylvania Elec. Co.

Wrongful death damages are designed to compensate survivors for economic losses. The statute for wrongful death, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8301(a), provides: “An action may be brought . . . to recover damages for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another if no action for damages was brought by the injured individual during his lifetime.”

The basic difference between a wrongful death action and a survival action is the basis of the action. In a wrongful death action, the basis of the action is the financial damages suffered by the loss of the loved one. So for instance, children of a parent who is killed will suffer the loss of the parent’s financial contribution, such as lost wages.

The survival statute, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8302, provides: “All causes of action or proceedings, real or personal, shall survive the death of the plaintiff or the defendant, or the death of one or more joint plaintiffs or defendants.”

A survival action is based upon the pain and suffering of the deceased person, which occurs after the accident and before death. The injury victim who suffers for hours, days or months before succumbing to the injuries would have a claim for pain and suffering damages which then passes to his or her survivors after death.

The Two Year Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death and Survival Actions

The statute of limitations applicable to both wrongful death and survival actions, 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524(2) provides that “An action to recover damages for injuries to the person or for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another” must be commenced within two years. The two year period begins to run “from the time the cause of action accrued . . .” 42 Pa.C.S. § 5502(a).

In wrongful death actions, the statute of limitations expires two years from the date of the death. For a survival action, the statute of limitations expires two years from the date of injury, not two years from the date of the death. This claim is made by the survivors on behalf of the deceased, as though the deceased was bringing his or her own lawsuit.

Statute of limitations issues require analysis by an expert personal injury lawyer. If you’d like to have your case reviewed by our Pennsylvania wrongful death lawyers, call 215.925.4451. Our lawyers are available for a free, no obligation legal consultation.

The wrongful death lawyers at Schwartz & Blackman handle cases in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area:

  • PA: Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, Allentown, Lehigh Valley, Norristown, Philadelphia
  • NJ: Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Camden, Cherry Hill, New Jersey shore cities

*This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is important to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.



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