It can be excruciatingly painful to lose a loved one, especially if his or her death was caused by negligence and should have been prevented. In West Virginia, the families of wrongful death victims can take two different types of legal action in order to secure compensation for their devastating losses and in order to find the justice they deserve: wrongful death actions and survival actions. In this post, we will discuss both, including the major differences between the two lawsuits.

Wrongful Death Claims: Compensation for Family Members’ Losses

Wrongful death claims are filed by the family members of the deceased person and do not go through the deceased person’s estate. In West Virginia, only the duly appointed representative of the deceased person’s estate can legally file a wrongful death claim, though they can do so on the behalf of any family members who are seeking compensation. The representative is either named in the deceased person’s will or is appointed by the court if there is not a will.

In wrongful death claims, the victim’s family may sue for damages including:

  • Medical bills.
  • Loss of comfort.
  • Loss of consortium.  
  • Mental anguish.
  • Loss of income.
  • Loss of services or care.

For example, a family who lost their mother in a fall accident might file a wrongful death claim in order to pay for her medical bills and in order to replace three decades of anticipated financial support that the mother would have provided through her work as a professor. Another family who lost their mother may file a wrongful death suit for medical bills and loss of services, since she provided childcare to the family’s three children full time.

Survival Actions: Compensation for the Deceased Person’s Losses

Survival actions can only be filed by the estate of the deceased family member. Also unlike wrongful death actions, survival claims focus not on the losses of the family members of the victim, but the losses of the victim him or herself. Specifically, survival actions focus on two types of damages suffered by the deceased:

  • Pain and suffering from the time the person was injured until his or her death.
  • Economic losses suffered due to the person’s death, such as loss of future wages.

For example, if a person was critically injured in a car accident and died two weeks later from burn injuries, that person’s estate could sue the responsible party for the pain and suffering experienced from the moment of the injury to the moment of death.

In West Virginia, survival actions and wrongful death actions can be combined.

Finding Justice for All

It can be difficult to know which legal actions to take in the wake of wrongful death in the family – and it is vital that everyone who deserves compensation for their losses receives it, even if they are no longer with us. Speak to a Charleston, West Virginia wrongful death lawyer about your case to find out if a wrongful death claim and/or a survival action may be the right choice for you and your family.