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What Happens After a Fatal Car Accident in Philadelphia

What Happens After a Fatal Car Accident in Philadelphia

There are few things in this world more difficult than losing a loved one. When a family member is killed in a car accident caused by someone else’s recklessness or negligence, the anger and confusion can become even more acute. If your loved one was killed in a crash, there are a few things to expect and a few important steps to take. Continue reading to learn about what happens after a fatal car accident in Pennsylvania, and speak with a seasoned Chestnut Hill wrongful death attorney if your loved one was killed in an accident in Philadelphia.

Police Investigation

After any serious accident, the police will be called to investigate. Officers will come to the scene to look for evidence, record data, interview witnesses, and otherwise try to determine what happened. If anyone at the scene is alive and injured, emergency responders will treat them and take them to a hospital. The scene will be cleaned up following the investigation.

The police will generate a report about what transpired, which should include a preliminary determination as to fault. It is vital to obtain that report to help support your eventual claims and prove which driver was at fault. A police report after a fatal crash may take longer to generate than a typical accident report, and it is likely to be much longer than a typical crash report. You can rely on your personal injury lawyer to communicate with the police and ensure that you get a copy of the report at soon as it is available.

Criminal Charges

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the at-fault driver might face criminal charges. If the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, if they were engaging in dangerous behaviors such as street racing or extreme speeding, or if their conduct was otherwise extremely reckless, they could be charged with criminal homicide. If an accident resulted from factors outside of the driver’s control, such as weather or unpredictable mechanical failure, then criminal charges are less likely. More than simple negligence is necessary to give rise to criminal culpability.

Wrongful Death Claims

Regardless of whether the at-fault driver is charged criminally, the surviving family members of the deceased accident victim have the right to file a “wrongful death” lawsuit under Pennsylvania Law. A wrongful death lawsuit is available whenever an accident victim would have had a personal injury claim had they survived. That means that there must be someone to “blame” for the accident, someone who acted at least negligently. The at-fault driver is one possible defendant for a wrongful death lawsuit, but other parties who might also be liable include:

  • The manufacturer of a defective car or auto part that caused the crash
  • A bartender who overserved the at-fault driver and allowed them to drive drunk
  • The driver’s employer, if they worked for a taxi service, delivery company, or other business for which they were driving

A representative of the estate of the deceased person can bring a wrongful death claim for the benefit of the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased. Under Pennsylvania law, there can be only one wrongful death lawsuit arising from the death of a car accident victim. Damages recovered in the action will be distributed according to the decedent’s will or Pennsylvania’s intestate laws (the rules about who inherits when a person dies without a will). Damages available in a wrongful death suit include medical expenses, pain and suffering of the victim, the decedent’s lost income, as well as the lost value of services the deceased party provided to the family such as parental care, home maintenance, and others.


If someone you care about has been killed in a car crash in Pennsylvania, you need the help of a passionate and professional personal injury attorney to get the damages you deserve. Benedum Law founding attorney Christine Benedum has dedicated her career to fighting for accident victims and knows how to get her clients the compensation they deserve from those at fault. Contact an experienced and effective Philadelphia car accident victim attorney at Benedum Law for a free consultation on your case at 215-529-7848 (215-LAWSUIT).

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