The death of a loved one is difficult under any circumstances. But, it can be harder to deal with when your family member dies due to the negligence of another.
The ramifications of a loved one’s death are not just emotional. Many times, the victim of the accident provided financial support that is no longer available. For surviving loved ones, this means that they must cope with a difficult, perhaps unexpected financial situation on top of the emotional challenges.
At Colombo Law, we are committed to fighting for the rights of accident victims and their families. Please call (304) 599-4229 today for a free consultation. Our lawyers serve clients in Morgantown and throughout West Virginia.
Important Considerations in Your Wrongful Death Case
West Virginia law is stricter than many states when it comes to wrongful death claims. So, it is important that you work with an attorney who has a thorough understanding of the laws and requirements for filing such a claim.
There are several things you must consider before filing a wrongful death lawsuit in West Virginia, including who is able to file a claim, what the timeframe is for filing a claim, who can receive compensation for a claim, and what damages are recoverable.
Standing in West Virginia Wrongful Death Claims
In some states, an immediate relative – such as a spouse, child, or parent – is able to file a wrongful death claim. However, in West Virginia, the only individual who has standing to file such a claim is the personal representative of the deceased.
This is typically the individual set as the executor of the decedent’s estate. If this person was not specified in the decedent’s will, then someone – typically the spouse – will need to apply to be appointed as the estate’s administrator.
Timeframe for Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim
The timeframe for filing a claim, legally referred to as the statute of limitations, in West Virginia is two years from the date of the death. If you fail to file the claim within this timeframe, you will generally be unable to recover compensation related to your loved one’s wrongful death.
Who Can Be Awarded Damages?
Oftentimes, there are many individuals deeply affected by a wrongful death, both financially and emotionally. Because of this, there are a number of parties who may be able to receive compensation in a wrongful death suit, including:
- The surviving spouse
- Children, including adopted children and stepchildren
- Immediate family, including brothers, sisters, and parents
- Anyone who was financially dependent on the decedent at the time of death
The West Virginia Wrongful Death Statute specifies who can recover on a wrongful death claim. This is separate and distinct from the terms of a will.
What Damages Are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Ultimately, there are three types of damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death claim: economic damages, noneconomic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic damages refer to financial losses related to the wrongful death, including:
- The cost of care before the deceased passed away, including treatment and hospitalization directly related to the accident
- Reasonable funeral expenses
- Loss of income of the decedent, along with services, protection, care, and assistance provided by the decedent
Noneconomic damages, often referred to as pain and suffering damages, cover the emotional and psychological suffering caused by the death. According to West Virginia law, this is defined as: “Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent.”
Finally, punitive damages refer to damages that are awarded as a result of reckless, malicious, or intentional conduct. This type of compensation is not tied directly to your losses; rather, it is awarded as a means of penalizing the defendant in instances of extreme negligence or misconduct.
It is important that you work closely with an experienced wrongful death attorney to ensure that you are properly accounting for all of the damages you have suffered. Insurance companies will do their best to pay you as little as possible, but you deserve the maximum amount the law allows.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Today
After the death of a loved one, it can be very hard to move on, especially when the consequences are financial as well as emotional. Nevertheless, as you can tell from the complexities we’ve discussed here, wrongful death claims can be complicated and challenging.
At Colombo Law, it is our firm belief that those responsible for wrongful deaths should be held accountable. We are here to provide legal guidance and fight for your rights in your time of need.
Find out how Colombo Law can help your family. Please call (304) 599-4229 today for a free case review. Our wrongful death lawyers serve clients in Morgantown and throughout West Virginia.