Is It Too Late to File a Wrongful Death Action in Pennsylvania?


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Oftentimes, an individual who has lost a loved one comes into our office to discuss whether they can file a wrongful death action. In many instances, the time limit or statute of limitations has expired, and it is too late.

Recently, an individual from Philadelphia who lost her mother contacted our office to discuss a potential injury case. It had been 5 years since her mother died. She wanted to know whether there was a viable medical malpractice claim against a hospital in Philadelphia where her mother received treatment for cancer.

About two years after her mother passed away, the woman had spoken to a friend who mentioned medical malpractice lawsuits. That got her thinking that she should talk to a lawyer about her mother’s case. Unfortunately, by the time she came to our office, the time limit had expired. While there may have been a perfectly valid claim against the hospital, it was simply too late to take action. This scenario is all too common.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult hardships in life. It’s why people tend to put off speaking to a lawyer. After all, who wants to think about a lawsuit when dealing with administering an estate? However, it is crucial to get advice from a lawyer whenever a loved one dies due to a “freak accident” or when medical negligence is suspected. Time is of the essence; the statute of limitations clock is ticking.

Pennsylvania statute of limitations law is very complex when it comes to wrongful death actions, more so when the underlying facts of the case involve medical mistakes. Pennsylvania’s general 2 year statute of limitations applies in wrongful death actions. However, the date when the clock starts ticking depends on the facts of the case. The clock may start ticking on the date of the death or the date of the injury, and in some cases, there may be a significant time lag from the date of injury and the date of death.

For example, an individual is injured in a car accident and is in a coma for several months before dying. What is the statute of limitations in a subsequent wrongful death action? It’s probably 2 years from the date of death.

Wrongful Death Actions & Survival Actions in Pennsylvania – Two Types of Actions

Wrongful death actions are separate and distinct from survival actions, although they are commonly filed in the same lawsuit. For a survival action, the statute of limitations would probably expire 2 years from the date of the accident, not 2 years from the date of death. Using the car accident example above, the statute of limitations for the survival action would expire 2 years from the date of the accident. Therefore, depending on the lag between the date of the injury and date of death, there could be very complex statute of limitations issues in the case. Learn more about wrongful death and survival action lawsuits in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Attorney

If you would like to discuss a wrongful death action in Pennsylvania, please contact our office for a free consultation. We are based in Philadelphia and have offices throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. (866) 641-0806

DISCLAIMER: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. It is crucial to speak to a qualified lawyer prior to making any decision about your case. Read full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.