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Statutes of Limitation and How Long You Have to File a Survival Action in Pennsylvania

In any personal injury or wrongful death circumstance, one thing that is important to note is that different legal “causes of action” (in other words, legal bases for suing and obtaining compensation) may have different “statutes of limitations.” In a practical sense, this means that different claims may have different deadlines after which you are no longer allowed to seek compensation. These deadlines can be very strict and the potential negative impact (a total loss of the legal right to pursue your case) is so severe that it is always a good idea to begin taking action and consulting knowledgeable Pennsylvania injury counsel right away to ensure compliance with all statutes of limitation and no loss of any potential claims.

A recent case originating in Philadelphia demonstrated the importance of understanding these statutes of limitation. The case involved W.B., who was a resident at two health care facilities in Philadelphia for part of 2013. W.B. died on Sept. 3, 2013, and his death certificate listed the cause of death as “cerebral vascular accident” and hypertension. However, W.B. also suffered from multiple bedsores that allegedly got worse during his time at the two care facilities. D.B., who was the administrator of W.B.’s estate, sued the facilities on Sept. 2, 2015. The lawsuit asserted two claims of negligence, one claim of wrongful death and one survival claim.

When a loved one dies as a result of another person (or entity)’s negligence, the law in Pennsylvania may permit various different bases for suing and receiving compensation. There is a legal claim for wrongful death. That claim allows the deceased person’s family to recover damages that compensate them for the losses they suffered as a result of the deceased person’s premature death.

A survival action is different. That allows a person authorized to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate, such as an administrator, to seek compensation for the harm that the deceased person suffered in the days, weeks and months before his death. Each of these claims has their own statutory provisions that control their limitations periods.

In D.B.’s case, she acted in a timely fashion. The facilities argued that the statute-of-limitations deadline for pursuing a survival action in this circumstance was two years after the bedsores became apparent. The Superior Court rejected that argument, concluding that the survival action statute in Pennsylvania explicitly gives plaintiffs “two years after the death.” (A plaintiff gets even longer if she can prove that the defendants engaged in “affirmative misrepresentation or fraudulent concealment” regarding the cause of death.)

D.B. filed within two years of W.B.’s death. That meant that her lawsuit was timely and the defense was not entitled to a dismissal.

To succeed in an injury or wrongful death case, you need extensive factual evidence. You also need in-depth knowledge of the law. For many years, the Pennsylvania wrongful death and survival attorneys at Needle Law Firm have been providing that level of skilled and knowledgeable representation. Contact us today at for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 855.687.4357.

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