Losing a Loved One in an Accident
The loss of a family member is devastating, even more so when it's unexpected or due to someone else's negligence. This can make a death much more difficult to understand, knowing that there may have been a way to prevent it.
Consulting with an attorney may not be high on your list of priorities, but you're probably aware that your family could be entitled to compensation. In instances of accidental or wrongful death, surviving family members are greatly impacted by the loss. Not only have you lost companionship, you're also dealing with a change in your financial stability, paying for any incurred medical or funeral costs, as well as suffering emotional damages.
There's no amount of compensation in the world that will change the tragedy you've suffered. However, our law firm can help you handle the legal issues associated with a wrongful death, so you can focus on carrying on the memory of your loved one.
Wrongful Death Attorneys
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Hello and welcome to No Fee TV, where legal help is always free. On today's show it's a topic that's hard to talk about. No one ever expects to be in a serious car crash or other type of accident, but what if the unthinkable does occur? What if you or a loved one suffers severe or permanent injuries? What do you do when your whole life is turned upside down? Today two of the partners from Edgar Snyder & Associates are here to offer some practical insight and guidance that we actually hope you'll never need. Up first is attorney Cynthia Danel. Cynthia, thank you so much for being on the show today—and this is a really tough topic to talk about. Now, I would think that someone fortunate enough—there have been thousands, obviously, of people who have been injured—and people many of them are able to walk away. But then there are those who don't...that suffer some sort of catastrophic injury. What is it like to have to deal with that side of this situation?
You know, anybody who's in an accident and who is seriously hurt—even if they make a good recovery—it's seldom that they make a 100 percent recovery. But for most people, fortunately, they...they go on. Things may not be as easy to do as they were before. Maybe there are things that they just cannot do any longer, but 90 percent of their life can resume. There are those people though who—we call them catastrophically injured people—and they generally fall into two categories. Brain injuries are one catastrophic type of injury. Another is spinal cord injury. Both are devastating. And to say that a person's life is turned upside down is an understatement. Nothing is the same. Nothing is the same, not for them—not for anybody in their immediate family.
And I'm sure there are different levels with each of those injuries that you mentioned.
Yeah, some people...traumatic brain injury, for example, you don't see those people as much because they are not like the guy that you see in a wheelchair and you wonder what happened to him. But he can talk and at least function on a pretty high level. Some people who have traumatic brain injuries from an accident never recover. They may be essentially at an 8-year-old mentality for the rest of their life. And this is, you know, a husband who's worked his whole life, had children, was the breadwinner in the family, and suddenly the tables are turned. That wife has another child. Those children no longer have a dad. They have somebody that they have to take care of and to watch out for.
And it literally can happen. And that's just what the scary thing...I was just having this conversation with my daughter as I was coming here...how life can change. And when you're talking about these kinds of injuries, a life can change in a second and it's...it's devastating, like you said, to everybody involved. Now, what types of accidents tend to cause the most serious of these injuries?
Well, hate to say it but motorcycle accidents can often be very catastrophic in terms of the injuries. And it stands to reason—there's not much between you and the pavement except what you're wearing and a helmet, if you're wearing a helmet. And a lot of the traumatic brain injuries that we see are with motorcycle cases. Other ones are tractor trailer. Probably the most significant factor in any car accident if you were to predict bad injury would be if you are ejected from a vehicle in a crash, and that usually happens in a rollover accident. I think you have about a 75 percent chance of dying in that accident. It's...the statistics are staggering. And seat belt. Now that'll that'll keep you in your car 90 percent of the time.
Seventy-five percent. That's a pretty big number.
Yes it is. Yeah.
When you have a client who’s seriously injured, how do you deal with them? Or is it really more about dealing with the family members and people who are close to them because they can't deal with the situation?
Well you deal with both. If somebody has a traumatic brain injury, sometimes you can't communicate with them on any type of meaningful level. And so you do have to deal with the family in those cases. Spinal cord injuries, where someone is a paraplegic or even a quadriplegic, meaning that they can't move any of their limbs-not their arms or their legs, but mostly they can they can communicate pretty well. And so you, you want to talk to them and to understand what it is they need, and their needs are tremendous. And other family members are going to be a big, big source of information. But oftentimes you find that the injured party may want some educational material. They don't want to vegetate. They feel that they can do something else, and it's up to you to use your resources to try to help them out.
We have to take a quick break. When we come back we're going to talk more with attorney Cynthia Danel about catastrophic injuries. Please stay with us.
Welcome back to No Fee TV, where legal help is always free. And in the studio with us today we have attorney Cynthia Danel, who's talking about the most serious of accidents and compensation that you can even imagine. And speaking of compensation, Cynthia, how do you even begin to calculate that? Somebody who loses all ability to...to walk or to think...where do you start?
Well, I think we have a graphic that we can put up here. Probably the biggest thing in any case is we worry about medical bills, of course. We don't want to let someone worry about how they're going to pay for their surgery in the future... lost income. Many of our clients are never able to go back to work again or if they do go back to work, it's not at the high-paying job that they had before. Pain and suffering. People who are catastrophically injured never get over it. I mean to say that they are cured is a dream. They...they persist with their problems. Home renovations. Often people who are in wheelchairs cannot go back to their home. They have to have a whole different living arrangement—wider bathrooms, wider hallways. All of these things are extremely expensive.
How do you deal with the loss of income? I mean that's something that...how would you even project that over time?
Well, we do it. We do it on a regular basis. We get all the work records for a client going back several years and then we figure out if they're not able to work ever again what their work life expectancy would have been, what their benefits would have been, and we hire economists who project that.
Are all personal injury law firms able to handle these cases?
Unfortunately, a lot of firms do not handle them correctly. It's expensive to be able to make correct projections into the future, to cover the losses that a person is going to have for the rest of their life, and hiring—we call them life care planners—because they...they know how much medical care will cost. They know how much the cost of medical care is going to be in 20 years. We need to project that and to work that into our calculation of what has been lost.
What are the day in the life videos? Can you talk about those?
Yeah, that's another thing that we use very frequently. You know, it's one thing to talk about somebody who's in a wheelchair, and it's another thing to talk about somebody who's in a wheelchair and their wife has to take care of them. It's another thing to show them what that really means. And we go into the home and show how a wife who used to be a wife and not a caretaker has to deal with the realities of living with a handicapped person. How she has to help get them out of bed, get dressed, get into the wheelchair. We go through their physical therapy, prepare meals for them—all the things that they never had to do before.
I can imagine that has to be so overwhelming to someone.
It's very eye-opening to see it on film.
Are there any cases that stand out to you that really made an impact on you? Maybe even your career?
Oh, yeah. Yeah, I would say especially the kids. Unfortunately...and I've had many cases involving little kids...2-year-old kids, 6-year-old kids, 10, 12, 14-year-old kids who are catastrophically injured. There is no amount of money—there's not enough money in the world to make things right. But the only thing you can do is make things better. And those cases you work very hard on, and those...the faces of those kids never leave your mind. And I maintain relationships, and I have for decades, with some of my littlest clients who were 2 years old, 6 years old when they were hurt, and I still keep up with them...I still talk to their moms.
To make sure they are doing well.
Make sure they are doing well, yeah.
All right. Cynthia thank you so much for sharing your perspective and exactly what you do to help as you said make it better. You can't make it 100 percent again, but make it better—so thank you.
Thank you for the time.
We'll be back with more No Fee TV in just a moment.
Welcome back to No Fee TV, where legal help is always free. In the studio with me right now we have attorney Todd Berkey. He's a partner at Edgar Snyder & Associates. Welcome to the show.
Hi Shelley, good evening! How are you?
I'm great! Now, we talked with Cynthia about some pretty devastating things that can happen as a result of accidents and injury. Now we're going to talk about, unfortunately, worst-case scenario: What happens if someone dies as a result of an accident. So, what does the term wrongful death actually mean?
Well, it almost actually means what it says is somebody was wrongfully killed, a life was wrongfully taken. Typically it's in a scenario or situation where someone, an individual, an entity, a corporation—what-have-you—was careless or negligent and it resulted in someone's death.
How many cases have you handled? I'm assuming hundreds, sadly.
Yes. Many, many.
Are there certain types of accidents that lead to these types of fatalities that are more common than others for example?
Well, I would echo what Cindy said: That motorcycle, we see a lot of, unfortunately, a lot of deaths in motorcycle accidents. Also in motor vehicle accidents—especially where you have large vehicles, commercial vehicles, tractor trailers. We've all seen what the devastation that can be caused by a, you know, tractor trailer or large commercial vehicle. And also I'd say we see a fair amount of deaths that occur in construction-related accidents, on construction sites, or in, you know, plants, manufacturing plants, some on the workplaces. Things like that. Things of that nature. I'd say predominantly that's...that's where mostly you’re seeing these, these types of cases.
Now, Cynthia I mean, even just her talking about the situations that she has dealt with—and you get, you obviously get a little emotional and you get attached. And how do you handle those types of situations? With grieving loved ones? And, I mean, that's just...
Well, emotionally attached is... I don't think it even describes it. I mean, it's...you know, it's...it's probably—for me and I'm sure a lot of lawyers who do this type of work— it's...it's probably one of the most difficult aspects of our job because, I mean you are dealing with a family who has lost, you know, a loved ones. I mean, you're talking about someone, you know, someone who's lost a spouse or a child or a parent. You know it's...it's very difficult. And, you know, I think what we do is...is we're very compassionate. And I think first and foremost—I think that's the way we approach these cases: with a lot of sympathy and a lot of compassion.
How do you put a price on a life?
Well, that's another very difficult thing. I mean, it's very difficult to explain to someone, you know, the value of a life. And you can't. I mean, as Cindy said, you can’t. You can't place a value on the life—it's impossible. I mean you could go and dump...dump a truckload of money on somebody's front lawn, but that's not going to replace their loved one. And so it's very difficult. And it's probably one of the most difficult aspects of the things we do is trying to explain to our clients how our system—our system of justice—could place a value on someone's life...how that is accomplished. And there's ways and means and methods to do that.
Yeah, and I think we have a graphic that might point that out.
Yeah, well there's two different acts in Pennsylvania for which you can bring a death case. One is the Wrongful Death Act, which is what you see here. And there's certain damages that you can claim in each act. So in the Wrongful Death Act, as you could see, you could claim things such as medical, funeral, burial, estate expenses—things of that nature. Those are things you can actually put a dollar figure on. Then under the Act...a lot of the other...under this act are a lot of the other types of damages that you can claim for damages that the person who was killed...types of services that they provided to the family. Those losses, those types of losses such as contributions that the decedent would have provided to his family. And those types of things...are...they always count in terms of amounts that could fairly and adequately compensate the family for the contributions that person would have made to the family. And in this aspect we're really talking about things such as shelter, food, clothing, medical care, entertainment, gifts, recreation....try to put a price on those things. Another aspect is the monetary value of the services—society, comfort, and support—that that person would have given to the family. So again, you try to put a monetary value on these types of things. That's the value the loss of the services and comfort. Then there's also if...on behalf of a surviving child, if a parent is lost, you have things such as...things you that would fairly compensate or adequately compensate the surviving children for...for the loss of the parents’ guidance and tutelage and moral upbringing. And these are all legal terms that I'm giving to you, but they also...they mean basically the...the monetary value of the services that the loved one has...that the people who are left...that the decedent has left...that the monetary value of those services—comfort, society, love, companionship, support— and you have to try to put a monetary value on these things.
Who in the family is entitled to receive the compensation? Everybody? Or how does that work?
Well, no. Well, if there's a will then it goes by a will. Because obviously you can bequeath your assets. You can leave your assets to who you choose to do so in your will voluntarily. If there's no will then there's again Pennsylvania statutes on this issue that govern how your assets would be divided and these are called the laws of intestate succession. That's for someone who passes without a will and it usually it goes typically to, it’s basically designed to protect the surviving spouse and children. That's the way it's designed. So basically, if someone leaves a spouse and there's no children, everything would go to the spouse. If someone leaves the spouse and there's no children but there's a parent, then the way it works is the spouse—the surviving spouse—will get the first $30,000. That's called a spousal share, and then the rest, half of the net of the rest of the estate would be divided between the parent or parents and spouse. And then it goes on from there. There's different levels depending upon spouse, children, and if there's no children and no spouse, then it goes on to parents, grandparents—things of that nature—so this is all set forth in a...this is all set forth in a statute.
We have so much more to cover. We're going to take another quick break, so please stay with us.
Welcome back to No Fee TV, where legal help is always free. And tonight we're talking with Todd Berkey and Cynthia Danel. Todd's in the studio with us right now. What happens when someone dies due to someone else's negligence. Why is it so important to have an attorney?
Well, I think what was important possibly to take away from what I just spoke about is the types of damages the one can recover. It's very complex and it's very convoluted, and the courts and the legislature have made it...they try to...they've tried to constrict and restrict the types of elements of damages that a family or loved one can recover. Solely because the thinking is—and the thought processes by the legislature and the courts—is if juries have to hear these cases they don't want juries deciding these cases solely based upon emotion and sympathy because these are very emotional cases. So the courts have really tried to define—specifically define and set forth the parameters by which juries if they have to decide these cases, can award these elements of damages. And that's why...I didn't even get to the survival action damages because it is very complex and convoluted. And that is really the reason why you need to have a lawyer who's experienced and skilled and knowledgeable in handling these cases, because we know how to put these cases together. We know how to build these cases and present the damages part of the cases within the confines and the constrictors of law to maximize the amount of the recovery.
Todd, thank you so much for everything. We appreciate it. And yes, we could spend so much time on this topic. That wraps up another episode of No Fee TV. We thank Todd, as well as attorney Cynthia Danel for their insights on this very sensitive subject matter. Now, Todd actually will be back with us next week to talk about dangerous products. And you can bet some of those are items you already have in your house that you and your family use every day. So until then, thank you for watching and be safe.
Thank you again for tuning in to this edition of No Fee TV, where legal help is always free. If you have a topic you would like us to cover in a future show, please reach out to us at EdgarSnyder.com. You can also connect with us on our Facebook page or on Twitter and Google+ using the hashtag #nofeeTV. See you next week.
Attorney Todd Berkey discusses wrongful death claims at 11:36.
Settling an estate, recovering damages, and coping with a tremendous loss is a lot for any person to handle. You don't have to go through it alone. Our legal professionals will assist you every step of the way.
No two cases are ever the same. However, our attorneys have experience handling many different types of wrongful death cases, each requiring special attention, care, and commitment. Our past cases have included:
Recovering Compensation for a Wrongful Death
You shouldn't have to suffer financially, as well as emotionally, because someone else's negligence led to the death of a loved one. Our law firm will pursue compensation for the following:
- Financial Support Provided by Your Loved One
- Loss of Services Provided by Your Loved One
- Loss of Companionship
- Funeral and Burial Expenses
- Grief and Emotional Damage
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Punitive Damages
- And More
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