After the loss of a loved one, taking legal action is probably one of the furthest things from your mind. You are likely preoccupied with trying to settle your loved one’s affairs, as well as grieving with your family.
However, if you suspect your loved one was killed due to the negligence of another party, it is important to consider your legal options. Wrongful death lawsuits enable aggrieved families to recover compensation for their losses.
The wrongful death attorneys at Colombo Law can help you pursue justice for your deceased loved one. Please call (304) 599-4229 today for a free consultation in Morgantown.
Do I Need to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
First, it is important to understand that you may not need to sue to recover compensation for your loved one’s death. As with other personal injury claims, wrongful death cases may be resolved through settlement negotiations without going to trial.
Your attorney can negotiate with the at-fault party or parties and the insurance company/companies on your behalf in an effort to reach a fair settlement. Successfully negotiating a settlement saves both sides the time and expense of going to court, and it also enables your family to receive compensation faster.
However, wrongful death claims may involve significant damages. As a result, the at-fault party and/or the insurer may be unwilling to settle for a fair amount. If this is the case, your lawyer can discuss the necessity of filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Compensation Can I Recover in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Whether your attorney negotiates a settlement or files a wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf, you and the other eligible members of your family may be entitled to compensation for a range of damages stemming from the loss of your loved one. Ultimately, the amount you may be able to recover will depend on the evidence in your case.
Potentially, you and your family may be entitled to compensation for the following:
Funeral and Burial Expenses
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial is $7,640. That is a lot of money for any family, especially when the loss of a loved one comes unexpectedly.
Damages for funeral expenses can defray the costs of funeral arrangements as well as the final disposition of the remains (burial, cremation, interment in a vault, etc.).
Medical Expenses Prior to Death
Some injuries are not immediately fatal. In theses cases, your family may be faced with significant costs for medical care provided prior to your loved one’s passing, including:
- Palliative care and pain management
- Hospice care
If the injuries that caused your loved one’s death were caused by the negligence of someone else, you and your loved ones may be entitled to compensation for these medical expenses.
Loss of Income and Support
One of the biggest challenges families have to face after the death of a loved one is the sudden loss of monetary support. In West Virginia, family members can pursue compensation for the loss of wages expected over the decedent’s lifetime. Such a calculation often requires testimony from a vocational expert who can state what a similarly trained and educated individual in your loved one’s profession may be able to make over the course of a career.
Families may also be entitled to damages for other economic losses such as:
- Loss of benefits, such as employer-provided health insurance
- Loss of pension
- Loss of inheritance
It is important to calculate all of the economic losses you and your family have sustained as a result of your loved one’s passing. Your attorney will collect evidence and enlist appropriate experts to pursue full compensation in your wrongful death claim.
Loss of Services
The support of a loved one takes many different forms. In addition to the economic support discussed above, West Virginia law also accounts for the value of household services provided by a decedent.
Household services may include home maintenance, childcare, housework, hiring professional service providers, travel for activities to benefit the household, and more. Compensation for these losses enables surviving family members to hire workers to assist with household activities previously performed by the decedent.
Sorrow and Mental Anguish
In addition to economic losses, surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for the emotional trauma they endure as a result of their loved one’s death. This is a form of non-economic damages, meaning it has no exact dollar value. Your lawyer must present evidence of these damages – often the testimony of surviving family members – to recover compensation for sorrow and mental anguish in your wrongful death claim.
Loss of Society
According to the West Virginia Legislature, surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for the loss of their loved one’s “society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice.” Broadly speaking, this category of damages refers to the loss of the relationship with a family member.
These losses differ by the family relationship involved. A spouse may be able to recover compensation for the loss of physical intimacy and the emotional value of the partnership, while a child or children may be entitled to damages for the loss of a parent’s guidance and support.
Punitive damages are awarded infrequently. According to the West Virginia Legislature, they can only be awarded when the defendant acts with “actual malice toward the plaintiff or a conscious, reckless and outrageous indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others.”
What does this mean for your wrongful death claim? It means that your lawyer must present evidence of “actual malice” or “a conscious, reckless and outrageous” indifference on the part of the defendant toward your loved one. Ultimately, the jury will evaluate this evidence to determine if you and your family are entitled to punitive damages.
Punitive damages are an additional form of compensation you and your loved ones can use to overcome financial hardships and reclaim your lives after the death of a relative. The real purpose of these damages, however, is to punish the defendant and discourage others in similar situations from engaging in the same behavior.
Start Building Your Wrongful Death Claim Today
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another, it is in your best interest to contact a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys at Colombo Law can inform you of your legal options, including filing a claim against the liable party or parties and whether or not you will need to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover fair compensation.
Please call (304) 599-4229 today for a free case review. Colombo Law serves clients and families in Morgantown and throughout West Virginia.