Pittsburgh Wrongful Death Attorneys
Losing a loved one is difficult enough. Losing someone because of another person’s negligence can be devastating. The loss feels unnecessary, unfair, and unjust.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 200,955 unintentional injury deaths in 2020. A large number of these are motor vehicle traffic deaths, but wrongful death may be caused by workplace accidents, defective products, medical malpractice, and more.
The Pittsburgh wrongful death lawyers at Chaffin Luhana represent surviving family members of people who are wrongfully killed by negligent or intentional acts. We handle a wide range of wrongful death claims for families throughout the U.S., including in West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, and Eastern Ohio.
We understand that compensation can’t fill the hole your loved one has left behind. But we do believe it can help you and your family to get back on your feet. When it comes to considering a claim, think about how it may benefit survivors, and perhaps prevent others from having to go through the same type of tragedy.
If you believe your loved one’s death was caused by a form of negligence or an intentional act, contact our Pittsburgh personal injury lawyers for help today. To schedule a complimentary consultation, call 1-888-480-1123.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases in Pittsburgh
At Chaffin Luhana, we handle the most complex wrongful death claims, including those involving the following.
Motor Vehicle Accidents (Car, Truck, Motorcycle)
Traffic accidents are one of the most common causes of wrongful death. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that in 2019, 36,096 people died in motor vehicle crashes. If another driver was negligent, driving drunk, or driving distracted, he or she may be liable for wrongful death.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents
Pedestrians and bicyclists are particularly at risk on the road. They usually suffer more severe injuries when involved in traffic accidents. Someone who is simply walking across an intersection or riding their bike through town should not have to worry about being hit and killed by a negligent driver.
Boating and Other Personal Watercraft Accidents
Just as victims of motor vehicle accidents may suffer from severe injuries and death, so too may those who are involved in accidents on the water. Watercraft operators may act negligently, speeding, driving while drunk, or ignoring standard water rules.
Construction Site Accidents (and Other Workplace Accidents)
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2020, fatal work injuries totaled 148 in Pennsylvania. Worker deaths on the job are usually preventable. If your loved one was killed on the job site, you may have a claim against the employer.
Employers are responsible for making sure their workplaces are safe. They must provide appropriate safety gear, and make sure employees are properly trained on how to use any necessary equipment.
When one person assaults another and causes their death, they may be criminally prosecuted for that. The family of the lost loved one, however, may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit if they can prove that the perpetrator was negligent.
Defective Auto Parts
If your loved one was in an accident because of a defective auto part, you may be able to sue the manufacturer of that part. If your loved one tried to hit the brakes, for instance, and the brakes malfunctioned, it may be that those brakes were defective.
Defective Medical Devices
If your loved one died because of a faulty medical device, you may be able to bring a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Certain medical devices, such as pacemakers, defibrillators, dialysis filters, and even hip and knee replacements, can malfunction to the point that they put a patient’s life at risk.
We trust our medications to be safe, and most of them are. But sometimes drugs can be manufactured with a defect that can cause harm. They may be contaminated with microbes, or contain toxic byproducts that can damage health over time. The manufacturers may fail to test them in certain at-risk groups, such as those with heart disease, thereby acting negligently toward those patients.
If a healthcare professional or medical center makes an error in diagnosis, surgery, or prescribing medication that results in the death of a patient, they may be held liable for wrongful death.
Patients may also bring claims for the misdiagnosis of a serious disease, such as cancer, if they can prove that signs of the disease were missed. Parents may bring a claim against a healthcare practitioner whose negligence causes a birth injury. Families may sue a nursing home if they can prove that the staff or administrators were negligent in a loved one’s death.
Defective or Unsafe Equipment or Heavy Machinery
Manufacturers of products for sale on the American marketplace are under strict laws regarding product safety.
If an accident occurs while a consumer is using a piece of equipment or machinery, multiple parties may share liability. These may include:
- the manufacturer of the product
- the employer (if the accident happened in the workplace)
- the entity in charge of maintaining the equipment or machine
Unsafe Children’s Toys and Products
According to a recent study by Kids in Danger, the number of child deaths related to recalled children’s products reached a 17-year high in 2019.
Infant inclined sleepers led to the highest number of reported deaths in the 19 years the organization has analyzed recall data, totaling 38 deaths. Furniture tip-over events are another source of defective product child deaths. Parents can file claims against companies who fail to be sure their products are safe for children.
Those who own or manage property are responsible for keeping the premises safe. If a person dies because the property owner or manager neglected their responsibility to safety, that person’s family may have a wrongful death claim.
Examples of incidences that result in wrongful death include:
- fires at apartment complexes
- slip and fall accidents
- animal attacks
- negligent security (that fails to prevent an assault)
- swimming pool drownings
- malfunctioning elevators or escalators
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Accidents in Pittsburgh
A wrongful death occurs when someone dies due to the negligence or willful act of another person or entity. As noted above, many things can result in wrongful death cases. The most common include automobile accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, defective products, and negligence in nursing homes.
How to Select a Wrongful Death Attorney in Pittsburgh
Some key things to look for when choosing a wrongful death lawyer in Pittsburgh include:
- Trial experience: Though many wrongful death cases may be settled before going to trial, it’s important to have an attorney who has a good amount of trial experience. Such an attorney will be best positioned to get you the compensation you deserve.
- Experience with cases like yours: Ask about other cases like yours that the attorney has successfully litigated. You’re looking for someone who understands the nuances of the law when it comes to wrongful death cases.
- Reputation: Check the attorney and the firm online and at the bar association. Make sure the lawyer you’re considering has a good reputation.
- Communicates clearly: Legal situations can be complicated. You want an attorney who can clearly explain what is going on.
- Works on a contingency basis: This means that you don’t have to pay any money up-front. Only if your attorney wins compensation on your behalf do they collect fees from those winnings.
What Our Clients Have to Say About Chaffin Luhana
Below is a small sampling of the testimonials we have received from our clients:
$1.7 Million Recovery
“I am glad that I have retained your services. I am also glad that you are there to help me, my family, and other families who may be going through the same issues that I am… And from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for everything.”
– Anonymous., Consumer Client
$1.9 Million Recovery
“First class law firm. You equalized the playing field and gave me a voice concerning a major drug company…You gave me my dignity back.
– Esther M., Product Liability Injury Client
Auto Personal Injury Recovery
“It’s a shame that the insurance companies put you through this…I’m glad there are people like you out there because the insurance companies would walk all over victims otherwise.”
– Mark S., Personal Injury Client
Automobile Accident Victim
“This is the first time I’ve ever had to deal with anything like this. In my 70 years, I’ve never had to deal with anything legal. There’s no possible way I could have done it myself.”
– Timothy B., Personal Injury Client
Here are some recent reviews from our clients
Find more testimonials here.
Dedication to Community
Law partners Eric Chaffin and Roopal Luhana, along with their families, established The Chaffin Luhana Foundation in 2010.
A not-for-profit organization, the Foundation encourages the development of human potential and supports community empowerment through the following activities:
- Scholarships: Chaffin Luhana Foundation awards an annual scholarship to a student who helps us in the fight against distracted driving by submitting an inspiring personal essay.
- Financial gifts: The Foundation awards periodic financial gifts to institutions of higher learning. This helps support scientific research and funds educational scholarships to students.
- Stephanie Victor Legacy Award: The Chaffin Luhana Foundation awards an annual financial gift to one deserving individual who overcame significant challenges and achieved great milestones in his or her life or career.
- Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation: Chaffin Luhana has partnered with this organization to benefit those living with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.
- Najee Harris Partnership: We have partnered with Pittsburgh Running Back, Najee Harris, and his Da’ Bigger Picture Foundation to support those in need in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
The founding partners of Chaffin Luhana have extensive experience in fighting for plaintiffs’ rights:
- Founder Eric Chaffin: Mr. Chaffin has handled a wide array of cases against various types of manufacturers, with dozens of multimillion-dollar recoveries.
- Founder Roopal Luhana: Ms. Luhana manages the firm’s mass torts division. Throughout her career, she has served on committees in MDLs involving over-the-counter consumer products and defective pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
- Partner Patrick Booth: Mr. Booth enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help his clients obtain the best results possible in their personal injury cases.
Chaffin Luhana lawyers have also been named to the prestigious “Super Lawyers” list several years in a row.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Each state has its own laws controlling wrongful death claims. Pennsylvania law states that the personal representative (the “executor”) of the deceased person’s estate must file the wrongful death lawsuit.
A personal representative may be the executor in the decedent's Last Will and Testament or the decedent’s surviving spouse, parent, or child. If none of these people exist, the family or the court may designate someone else as the personal representative.
If that person doesn’t file a claim within six months of the date of death, any of the deceased person’s beneficiaries are then free to do so on behalf of all beneficiaries.
Pennsylvania law states that wrongful death occurs when someone engages in a wrongful act, neglect, unlawful violence, or negligence toward another. You can also think of it as a personal injury claim filed for someone who can no longer file such a claim themselves.
Examples of cases that may qualify as wrongful death include:
- A drunk driving accident
- A botched medical surgery
- In intentional killing (assault)
- A fall at a construction site
- A dog attack
In Pennsylvania, you must file a wrongful death claim within two years. This two-year period begins when the cause of death is determined, not necessarily the day the victim died. If the case is not filed by then, the court will likely dismiss it without hearing it.
There are some exceptions to this rule:
- A minor has two years after reaching the age of maturity (18 years) to file a wrongful death claim.
- Survivors of a medical malpractice claim have two years from the date they knew or reasonably should have known of the injury to file a claim. They must file within four years after the act of negligence occurred.
It’s best to file as soon as possible, however, because the evidence will be fresh. Plus, winning compensation sooner can help your family to recover.
A wrongful death claim is usually filed against any person, company, or other entity believed to be at fault for the death. Examples include the following:
- The drunk driver who caused a traffic accident
- The manufacturer, distributor, or installer of a faulty or dangerous product or piece of machinery
- The owner or manager of a piece of property, such as an apartment complex or local store
- The designer or builder of a faulty roadway
- The employer who failed to create a safe workspace or to provide employees with the proper safety gear
- The government agency that failed to provide adequate warnings about a road hazard
- The doctor who failed to make a correct diagnosis
- The criminal who committed the assault or robbery
- The manager of an unsafe nursing home
Keep in mind that to successfully hold another party liable for wrongful death, the plaintiff must be able to prove:
- Duty of care: The at-fault party owed the decedent a duty of care.
- Breach of duty: The at-fault party violated that duty by failing to act with a reasonable level of care.
- Causation: The at-fault party’s breach of duty directly led to the decedent’s death.
- Damages: The decedent's estate or surviving family members suffered financial and/or personal losses because their loved one died.
In Pennsylvania, a court may award damages to compensate for a range of losses in a wrongful death case. In general, there are two categories of damages:
- Those applying to the deceased from the moment of the negligent act causing the death until the time of death.
- Those applying to the next of kin after the decedent’s death.
The actual damages may include the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses: The typical cost of a funeral in the U.S. runs between $7,000 and $10,0000 or more. Families may be eligible to file a claim to help manage these expenses after a death of a loved one.
- Medical expenses: The cost for any medical care that the decedent had between the time of the accident and the time of death may be recovered in a wrongful death case.
- Pain and suffering: Families may be compensated for the pain and suffering the decedent went through before death. They may also seek compensation for their own emotional distress and mental anguish.
- Property damage: If property was damaged in the accident—say, the victim’s vehicle—the family may be eligible for compensation to cover those property losses.
- Estate administration expenses: A family may recover any expenses they had to shoulder to manage the estate.
- Lost wages and benefits: Beneficiaries of the decedent may be able to recover the money the decedent might have earned between the time of the accident and the time of death. They may also be able to recover lost employment benefits and lost capacity to earn, including the wages the decedent may have earned in the future had not the accident occurred.
- Lost inheritance: This reimburses family members for the value of what the decedent would have saved and bestowed to surviving beneficiaries had they lived a normal expected lifetime.
- Loss of the deceased household services, society, comfort, and guidance: When a loved one passes, the family loses the benefit of that person's presence in their lives. This damage category may refer to household services the person may have provided, such as childcare and handiwork, as well as the loss of the decedent's love, companionship, and advice.
- Punitive damages: A court may award these damages as a means of punishing the at-fault party responsible for the wrongful death.
If you have any reason to suspect wrongdoing in your loved one’s death, you owe it to yourself and your family to find out what happened.
At Chaffin Luhana, we will help you and your family recover compensation for your loss. Our skilled, experienced wrongful death attorneys can help investigate the claim, compile and review evidence, and negotiate with the insurance companies.
An attorney is the one person you have on your side in a wrongful death lawsuit. They can take over the case, allowing you to pick up the pieces in your life. If needed, a wrongful death attorney will be ready to go to court on your behalf. They can also help make sure you receive the compensation you are awarded.
Although financial compensation cannot bring back your loved one, it can help ease the stress of the situation by paying for medical bills, funeral, and burial costs as well as lost economic and social support.
To find out if you have a claim, contact our Pittsburgh wrongful death lawyers today.