Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits in West Virginia
When a family loses a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or intentional actions, the emotional and financial repercussions can be overwhelming. In West Virginia, a wrongful death lawsuit provides a legal avenue for families to seek justice and compensation. This post aims to shed light on the intricacies of wrongful death lawsuits in West Virginia, offering valuable insights for families coping with such a tragic loss.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal action brought when someone’s death is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, or default of another person or entity. This type of lawsuit is designed to provide financial support to the deceased’s survivors and to hold the responsible party accountable.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in West Virginia?
Under West Virginia law, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is responsible for filing the wrongful death claim. This representative is often named in the deceased’s will or appointed by the court if there is no will. The beneficiaries of the lawsuit can include:
- Children, including adopted children and stepchildren
- Any relatives who were financially dependent on the deceased
Grounds for a Wrongful Death Claim
To establish a wrongful death claim in West Virginia, the following elements must be proven:
- Duty of Care: The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased.
- Breach of Duty: The defendant breached this duty through negligence or intentional actions.
- Causation: This breach of duty directly caused the death of the individual.
- Damages: The death resulted in quantifiable damages. These damages are discussed below.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The jury in a wrongful death case is empowered to award however much in damages they deem to be fair and just. The types of damages recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit in West Virginia typically include:
- Economic Damages: These include medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of the deceased’s income/expected earnings, and loss of services, protection, care and assistance.
- Non-Economic Damages: These cover harm such as sorrow, mental anguish, and solace for loss of companionship, guidance, comfort and care.
- Punitive Damages: In cases of egregious wrongdoing, punitive damages can be used to punish the defendant and deter similar conduct in the future.
The Legal Process for Wrongful Death Claims
The process of a wrongful death lawsuit in West Virginia typically involves several steps. Your attorney will gather evidence that supports the claim and try to negotiate a reasonable settlement with the responsible party or their insurer. If a settlement cannot be reached, the estate’s personal representative files the lawsuit in a West Virginia court. This begins a phase known as discovery, during which the parties exchange information and evidence. During this time, further efforts to resolve the case through negotiation or mediation might occur. If a settlement can’t be reached, the case goes to trial, where a jury decides if the other party is liable and what the proper amount of damages should be.
In West Virginia, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is generally two years from the date of death. Failing to file within this period can result in the loss of the right to sue.
Legal Help Is Available After a Wrongful Death
Navigating a wrongful death lawsuit in West Virginia can be complex and emotionally taxing. It’s crucial for families to seek the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney who can offer comprehensive support through this challenging time. While no amount of compensation can replace a loved one, a successful wrongful death lawsuit can provide financial stability and a sense of justice for the bereaved family.
At Burke, Schultz, Harman & Jenkinson, we help families in West Virginia who lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, construction accident, or other fatal incident get justice and compensation by holding the responsible party or parties accountable for the harm they have caused. For families seeking assistance with a wrongful death claim, consulting with a local law firm experienced in wrongful death law can be the first step toward finding closure and valuable financial help. Remember, each case is unique, and legal advice tailored to your specific situation is invaluable. For a no-cost, confidential consultation, call our office in Martinsburg at 304-263-0900 or toll-free at 800-903-0901.