When Wrongful Death Occurs, Two Attorneys Are Better than One

Personal Injury Attorney

If a person’s death is a result of a wrongful death action, defined under Pennsylvania law as death that is caused by the “wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another,” the surviving family or beneficiaries may hire a personal injury attorney to seek money damages as a result. Consider the recent high-profile case of comedian Joan Rivers, who, although she was a resident of New York State, died as a result of a series of potentially avoidable errors that occurred during what should have been a somewhat routine outpatient medical procedure. Rivers’ daughter Melissa filed, and won, a wrongful death lawsuit in which she alleged medical malpractice resulted in her mother’s death. This process required a personal injury attorney.

Probate Attorney

When a person dies, their chosen or assigned personal representative is responsible for proper handling of the legal matters pertaining to their estate, for example, the administration of the estate’s finances and assets. The personal representative may be an executor named in a Will or if the decedent died without a Last Will and Testament, the Administrator appointed by the Register of Wills. The personal representative will often seek the services of a probate attorney to handle the legal aspects of the probate process, which include making the requisite state law filings, fulfilling notice requirements, preparing and handling state and federal tax returns, and settling the estate’s financial matters in general.

Setting aside the tragedy of Joan Rivers’ untimely death, she had the foresight to plan ahead with a detailed estate plan that specified the administration and distribution of her estate and her $290 million worth of assets, all of which was subsequently handled in a probate proceeding in the Surrogate’s Court of the State of New York. This process required a probate attorney.

Both Probate and Personal Injury Attorneys

Granted, the majority of us are not celebrity millionaires, but this case demonstrates the value in carefully considering all aspects of the laws in your state, and taking steps to arrange your affairs so that, should an unthinkable, untimely death occur, your matters are in order. Good estate planning facilitates the administration of your estate and also the coordination of matters among legal experts—to say nothing of easing the burden on your family and beneficiaries.

A wrongful death claim will seek to ensure damages cover more than just funeral and burial expenses. The claim will likely include damages to cover medical/hospital expenses, amounts for lost wages and benefits that survivors might have reasonably expected to receive, compensation for pain and suffering, and estate administration expenses, among others. A legal personal representative, with the assistance of an experienced Estate attorney, will know early on what the funeral and burial expenses as well as estate administration expenses are. The Probate attorney can then collaborate with the personal injury attorney to ensure damages requested sufficiently cover all financial needs for the immediate and foreseeable future.

Probate lawyers in Philadelphia and elsewhere always recommend clients be as prepared as possible in terms of having their estate plan documented in a Last Will and Testament according to their wishes. A probate attorney also helps by guiding survivors and beneficiaries when an untimely, wrongful death of a loved one occurs.

As a probate attorney in Philadelphia, I have assisted Personal Injury attorneys working on wrongful death cases representing the Personal Representative of an Estate to ensure the Estate Administration procedures are properly followed as required with Pennsylvania’s Orphans’ Court and/or the Register of Wills.  Please feel free to contact me at kam@maloleslaw.com or 267.399.3710 for your free initial consultation on how I can assist you in matters relating to wills, trusts, estates in relation to wrongful death matters.


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