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PA & WV Accidental Death Lawyer Blog

This blog focuses on the law in Pennsylvania and West Virginia (and other practical issues that arise) when a family member or friend is unfortunately lost due to an accidental death.

  • Impact of an Injured Person’s Unrelated Death on Future Damages

    In Pennsylvania, when a person is injured and, let’s assume the injuries will be permanent, the injured person has a claim for both past and future damages.  These damages could involve past wage loss, future wage loss or loss of future earning capacity, past pain and suffering, future pain and suffering, past medical expenses, future medical expenses etc.  So, what happens to damages when an injured person tragically dies from a cause unrelated to his or her initial injuries that a negligent defendant or the product of a defendant caused?  Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, there is an opinion from 1955 by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, which is the appellate court below the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, in Mohler v. Worley, 116 A.2d 342, 345 (Pa. Super. 1955) https://law.justia.com/cases/pennsylvania/superior-court/1955/179-pa-super-56-0.html in which the court held that when the injured person dies from causes unrelated to the defendant’s negligent act before trial, the damages are limited to the period from the date of injury to the date of death.  Specifically, the court held: “We think it is clear, however, in cases such as the present case, where the injured party dies before trial from other causes than defendant’s negligent act, damages are limited to the period between the date of injury and the date of death.”  Id.  This means future damages are eliminated.  There is little commentary on this opinion, although the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in Chappell v. W.Va. Ry. Co., 168 A.2d 330, 332 (Pa. 1961), approvingly cited to the limitation of damages from the date of injury to the date of death when the death is unrelated to the defendant’s negligence.

    From a practical standpoint, the now decedent’s claims will have to be pursued through the Pennsylvania Survival Act, 42 Pa. C.S. § 8302.  The Survival Act states “[a]ll causes of action or proceedings, real or personal, shall survive the death of the plaintiff or of the defendant, or the death of one or more joint plaintiffs or defendants.”  The personal representative, administrator, administratrix, executor, or executrix of the decedent’s estate may bring the survival action.  If a lawsuit is already pending, the personal representative, administrator, administratrix, executor, or executrix will be substituted in as the plaintiff, which requires the lawsuit’s caption to be amended, and the complaint will need to be amended to assert the Pennsylvania Survival Act claim.   The case now proceeds as a Survival Act claim.

    I’ll address the effect of an injured person’s unrelated death on their spouse’s loss of consortium claim in a future post.

    Rich Ogrodowski

    Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC

    Rich’s bio can be viewed here: https://golawllc.com/e-richard-ogrodowski/


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  • Overview of Pennsylvania Law Governing Pedestrians Walking or Running On or Near a Roadway

    As a runner, I spend a fair amount of time walking my dog or running for exercise around my town, which is located in Pennsylvania.  This necessarily involves walking or running on or near roads.  Sometimes the roads have a sidewalk and sometimes the roads do not.  Most people might be surprised that Pennsylvania has a law, 75 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3544, that governs where pedestrians can walk or run when on or along a roadway.  So, let’s go over the law:

    What if a sidewalk is available along a roadway?  Section 3544(a) requires that if “a sidewalk is provided and its use is practicable, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway.”  Therefore, if you can use a sidewalk, you have to use it.

    What if there isn’t a sidewalk?  Section 3544(b) provides that if there isn’t a sidewalk, “any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall walk only on a shoulder as far as practicable from the edge of the roadway.”  So, get as far from the roadway as possible.

    What if there is neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder along the roadway?  Section 3544(c) states that “[w]here neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder is available, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall walk as near as practicable to an outside edge of the roadway and, if on a two-way roadway, shall walk only on the left side of the roadway.”  Therefore, by requiring a pedestrian to walk (or run) on the left side of the roadway, the pedestrian will be facing oncoming traffic.  This is so the pedestrian can see oncoming cars or trucks, and, if there is danger, hopefully, be able to react to avoid serious injury or accidental death.

    To sum it up, if there is a sidewalk use it.  If not, get as far to the edge of the shoulder as possible.  If there isn’t a shoulder, get as far to the edge of the roadway as possible.  Plus, remember to walk or run on the left side of the roadway facing the oncoming traffic.

    Stay safe!


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  • The Deadliest Jobs in the United States

    What are the deadliest jobs in the U.S.? 

    Data from the U.S. Department of Labor answers the question.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2017, which looks at fatal work injuries or work deaths recorded in the U.S. in 2017.

    According to the data, overall, there were 5,147 worker deaths.

    Types of Incidents

    The main cause of worker deaths were: transportation incidents (2,077 deaths); falls, slips, and trips (887 deaths); violence and other injuries by persons or animals (807 deaths); contact with objects and equipment (695 deaths); exposure to harmful substances or environments (531 deaths); and fires and explosions (123 deaths).

    Deadliest Jobs

    The jobs with the highest fatal work injury rates or deaths in 2017 were (in descending order):

    10. Electrical power-line installers and repairers (18.7 deaths per 100,000 workers)

    9. First-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service, and groundskeeping workers (21 deaths per 100,000 workers)

    8. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers (24 deaths per 100,000 workers)

    7. Driver/sales workers and truck drivers (26.8 deaths per 100,000 workers)

    6. Structural iron and steel workers (33.4 deaths per 100,000 workers)

    5. Refuse (garbage) and recyclable material collectors (35 deaths per 100,000 workers)

    4. Roofers (45.2 deaths per 100,000 workers)

    3. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers (48.6 deaths per 100,000 workers)

    2. Logging workers (84.3 deaths per 100,000 workers)

    1. Fishers and related fishing workers (99.8 deaths per 100,000 workers)

    National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2017

    Stay safe!


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  • Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Reverses Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc. and Holds that the Federal Arbitration Act Requires Arbitration of a Survival Claim Arising from an Alleged Death in a Nursing Home

    Over the past year, I have reported on cases in which the Superior Court of Pennsylvania  refused to require arbitration of wrongful death and survival actions, despite the existence of an arbitration agreement with a nursing home facility, arising from the alleged action or inaction of the nursing home causing the death of a resident.  On September 28, 2016, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., 2016 WL 5630669 (Pa. Sep. 28, 2016), disagreed with those prior decisions and reversed the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in Taylor.

    By way of background, in the reversed decision from the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., 113 A.2d 317 (Pa. Super. 2015), the Superior Court previously held that a survival claim arising from the death of Anna Marie Taylor at an Extendicare Facility could not be separated (or bifurcated) from the wrongful death claim of her beneficiaries.  The court held this despite William Taylor, pursuant to a power of attorney authorizing him to act on Mrs. Taylor’s behalf, signing an arbitration agreement requiring the arbitration of all disputes arising out of Ms. Taylor’s stay at the Extendicare Facility  as part of the admissions paperwork.   In so holding, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania relied on Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 213(e), which requires the consolidation of survival and wrongful death actions for trial.

    In reversing the Superior Court, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania focused on the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), which Congress passed in 1925.  According to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the FAA “provides that arbitration agreements ‘shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.'”  Taylor,  2016 WL 5630669 at *1.  After reviewing opinions issued by the United States Supreme Court pertaining to the preemptive effect of the FAA on conflicting state laws, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania concluded “that the FAA preempts the application of Rule 213(e), and requires arbitration of the survival claim against Extendicare.”  Id.

    The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania did express sympathy for nursing home residents subject to arbitration agreements and stated “the contract formation process that attends nursing facility admission can be a crisis-driven, stress-laden event involving the superior bargaining power of one party over the other. … Indeed, nursing home defendants have reaped significant benefits from channeling medical malpractice claims into arbitration to the detriment of medical malpractice victims.”  Id. at *16.  Nevertheless, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ultimately stated that it could not disregard or defy controlling precedent from the United States Supreme Court.  Id.

    What is the effect of Taylor in Pennsylvania?  For now, it appears that survival actions subject to nursing home arbitration agreements will likely have to go through the arbitration process when Pennsylvania substantive law applies, unless the plaintiff can prove a common law defense such as mistake, lack of consideration, impracticability, unconscionability etc.

    Fortunately, as I reported in my prior post, on September 28, 2016, which was the same day of the Taylor decision, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced that it issued a final rule prohibiting the use of pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements as to long-term care facilities / nursing homes that receive federal funding from Medicare and Medicaid.  The new rule goes into effect on November 28, 2016, but, unfortunately, is not retroactive, so the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s reversal in Taylor will still affect arbitration agreements entered into prior to November 28, 2016.


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  • Bicyclist Death in Pittsburgh

    Earlier this week, a bicyclist, Dennis Flanagan, from McKees Rocks was killed after an SUV struck him, while on his bicycle, on West Carson Street, near the Station Square bus station.

    According to an article in the Tribune Review written by Michael Walton, Flanagan began riding his bicycle daily to improve his health following a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

    Over the past several years, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the City of Pittsburgh have worked together to install numerous bike lanes throughout Pittsburgh.  West Carson Street, which runs through the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and is a busy road, however, does not have a separate bike path.

    BikePGH, which is an advocacy group that focuses on making Pittsburgh’s streets and communities safe and accessible for people to bike and walk, is calling for changes to West Carson Street, including, according to WPXI News, the addition of a bike lane.


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