A wrongful death claim is a legal action in which one person seeks to recover damages from an individual alleged to be responsible for the death of another party. An individual who files a wrongful death lawsuit may seek many of the same types of damages that a deceased individual could have pursued if he or she had lived. In addition, wrongful death claims allow family members to receive compensation for specific losses suffered following the death of a relative.
West Virginia allows an estate’s personal representative to file a wrongful death claim. However, he or she must file the lawsuit within two years of the subject of the case’s death. If the case isn’t filed within this time period, the court may dismiss the case without a hearing. Below is some additional information on wrongful death in West Virginia.
Available damages in wrongful death cases
When damages are awarded in a wrongful death case, certain surviving family members may be eligible to receive a portion of the available damages. Such individuals may include:
- The surviving spouse of the decedent
- The decedent’s children, stepchildren, and adopted children
- The decedent’s siblings and parents, and
- Any of the decedent’s family members who were financially dependent upon him or her during life
There are several types of damages available to the family members of a deceased person in a wrongful death case. Damages available include compensation for the following:
- Loss of society
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of comfort
- Loss of guidance
- Loss of advice
- Mental anguish
- Medical bills
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages and benefits
- Lost or damaged property
An important aspect of wrongful death in West Virginia concerns the level of fault of the deceased. If a deceased individual is determined to have been 50 percent at fault or above for the circumstances leading to his or her death, then the estate cannot recover any damages.
This rule, known as comparative fault, differs from contributory negligence, which considers a plaintiff’s percentage of fault in causing an injury and adjusts his or her recovery accordingly.
West Virginia Personal Injury Attorneys
If your family member was a victim of wrongful death, it is important to immediately contact an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney to discuss your situation. An experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney will protect your legal rights and guide you towards the proper course of action based on your unique situation. At Hewitt & Salvatore, we pride ourselves on providing our clients with the kind of personal attention that bigger law firms cannot match. We treat each individual case as our firm’s top priority, and we take pride in meeting the needs of our many valued clients. You can trust Hewitt & Salvatore to see your claim through to a successful conclusion. Contact our office today for a free case evaluation.