Can A Good Friend File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In Pennsylvania?

Let’s say your best friend, John Smith, was killed in a horrific car accident. You want to know what you can do on his behalf. Who is entitled to compensation? Can you sue John Smith for your friend’s wrongful death? The short answer is “it depends — but probably not.” Here’s what you need to know before you decide to hire an attorney or go to court.

First and foremost, Pennsylvania Rule 2202 governs wrongful death lawsuits and clearly explains that only a deceased individual’s “personal representative” may build such a case. You might be thinking that you could be your deceased friend’s personal representative as easily as any of his close family members, but that probably isn’t the case. Unfortunately, only the family can assign a personal representative. This representative is legally allowed to bring the case to court, but that doesn’t mean that the representative stands to benefit.

The only way you can be compensated for your friend’s death is if you were defined as a beneficiary in your friend’s will — in which case it won’t matter whether you bring the suit yourself or the representative does. Should the case prove victorious in court, the representative will become responsible for dispersing those funds to the appropriate beneficiaries. 

Should the family decline to appoint a personal representative within six months of the victim’s death, then anyone allowed to recover damages may file a motion in court to recover those damages. However, for a good friend to recover damages, they still need to be mentioned as a beneficiary in the will. Without this clarification, a friend cannot legally file suit.

A person or organization that was negligent in the death of the aforementioned individual can be sued for wrongful death. Beneficiaries stand to recoup funeral expenses, loss of benefits or services, estate administration costs, and lost income. Families can also sue for pain and loss.