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PA Supreme Court issues decision on wrongful death claims

When it comes to wrongful death claims, there usually consist of several claims related to a person's untimely death. One portion of those claims can relate to survivor claims, which are a specific type of damage loved ones may seek after an unexpected death. Wrongful death lawsuits can vary greatly in their details and complexity, which can make deciding whether to litigate or arbitrate a tough decision for those who have lost loved ones. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued a ruling concerning arbitration and certain types of wrongful death claims.

The decision came after an earlier federal law contradicted the existing PA state law that was in place concerning survival claims. Thus, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in cases where survivor benefits are sought and whether the case should be mandated to litigate or arbitrate.

The main difference between litigation and arbitration is that in arbitration, the decision handed down by the judge is final. In contrast, cases of litigation decision can be brought to the next highest appeals court.

Arbitration does have its upsides and its downsides, in comparison to litigation. Depending on the circumstances surrounding a wrongful death lawsuit, one may be hoping to arbitrate or to litigate.

Now that the PA Supreme Court has ruled on this issue, lower Pennsylvania courts must accept and interpret the decision appropriately. In this case, it will mean that more PA wrongful death lawsuits will likely be forced to arbitrate.

When federal and state laws collide, it can make the law unclear for whomever it affects. This is why it is a positive thing that the state's highest court has made a decision concerning this issue. It may make the path clearer for those who choose to seek a wrongful death lawsuit. Now those who are seeking damages may have a better idea of what to expect.

Source: Pennsylvania Record, "Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that wrongful death suit should go to arbitration," Kate Jacobson, Oct. 21, 2016

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