When one person injures another, intentionally or not, the situation may lead to a personal injury lawsuit. The plaintiff (the party suing) files charges against the person who caused the injuries (the defendant). To win such a case, the plaintiff’s attorney must show the court that the defendant was negligent in some manner and that negligence directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. However, if the injured party dies from the incident, his or her surviving loved ones may hire a West Virginia wrongful death lawyer and file a claim rather.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death occurs when someone loses their life as the result of another’s negligence. Whenever someone else’s misconduct leads to death or injury, he or she may be liable for any damages that result.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in West Virginia?
Only certain individuals may file a wrongful death claim:
- The surviving spouse of the deceased
- The deceased’s children, including stepchildren and adopted children
- The parents of the deceased
- The deceased’s siblings, including stepsiblings and adopted siblings
- Anyone who was financially dependent upon the deceased at the time of death
In some situations, the court may appoint a representative to protect the interests of the deceased’s estate if there are no surviving family members or dependents.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for West Virginia Wrongful Death Cases?
In most cases, the estate of the deceased party has two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim. However, there may be exceptions to this rule in some cases, such as when vital information about the case was not discovered until after the death.
Can You File a Wrongful Death Civil Case If There Is Also a Criminal Case?
Yes. A criminal case is meant to find just punishment for the party or parties who were responsible for the person’s death. A wrongful death case, on the other hand, is meant to award the deceased’s estate with compensation for damages.
Types of Wrongful Death Cases We Handle
At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, our West Virginia wrongful death attorneys handle claims resulting from a wide range of fatal accidents including, but not limited to the following:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Drunk driving accidents
- Truck accidents
- Boating accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home negligence
If you have lost a loved one due to an accident caused by the negligence of another party, our legal team can help. We are committed to maximizing the compensation owed to our clients and will put all of our resources to work for you to ensure justice is served.
Wrongful Death vs. Medical Malpractice
Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand the difference between wrongful death and medical malpractice, especially since some lawsuits might give rise to both claims. However, a wrongful death lawsuit occurs when a surviving family member files a claim against a negligent party, saying that his or her misconduct led to a loved one’s death. Only certain individuals may file these types of claims. Examples include surviving spouses and dependent children, dependent partners, or parents of a minor child.
Conversely, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to adhere to an established standard of care. Examples of medical malpractice include misdiagnosis, delay in or lack of appropriate treatment, medication errors, surgical errors, anesthesia mistakes, or birth injuries. When medical malpractice leads to death, it’s possible to file a wrongful death claim in addition to any malpractice claims, but keep in mind that many states place caps on damages.
Claimable Damages in a West Virginia Wrongful Death Case
Filing a wrongful death claim is similar to filing a personal injury claim. Your West Virginia wrongful death attorney will be an invaluable asset for navigating the case and gathering the necessary documentation and evidence to build a successful claim. In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff can pursue compensation for damages including:
- Funeral or memorial service expenses.
- Burial costs.
- Compensation for lost income. The plaintiff can typically sue for the income the deceased would have reasonably expected to have earned.
- Pain and suffering. It may sound impossible to assign a dollar value to pain and suffering, but your Charleston personal injury lawyer will consult with experts in relevant fields to act as witnesses for your case. They will explain the extent of the deceased’s injuries and the pain they caused to the deceased before his or her death.
- Loss of companionship. When a loved one is taken from you due to another person’s negligence, you can hold them responsible for the lost love, support, guidance, affection, protection, and comfort the deceased provided to you.
- Lost financial security. In addition to the deceased’s lost income, you can claim compensation for the other financial support and necessary services the deceased provided to you.
- Medical bills. If the deceased was not immediately killed by the accident in question, they were likely hospitalized or otherwise received medical care for their final injury or illness. In such a case, you can claim compensation for his or her medical expenses such as hospital bills, specialist treatments, prescriptions, and any other similar health-related expenses.
How Do You Prove a Wrongful Death Claim in Court?
There are four main components involved in wrongful death claims that must be proved in order to win a settlement or court case: you and/or your West Virginia wrongful death lawyer must prove that:
- The defendant was wholly or partially responsible for the death of your loved one.
- Your loved one died as a result of the defendant’s negligence.
- The deceased party’s death affected surviving family members.
- The death of your loved one resulted in monetary damages.
How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in West Virginia
Like many other areas of civil action, wrongful death lawsuits have a unique statute of limitations. In West Virginia, someone seeking a claim has a time limit of two years from the incident leading to the death. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced West Virginia wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible.
The first step in filing a wrongful death suit is determining if you’re one of the eligible parties. Surviving spouses and financial dependents can usually file a wrongful death suit on behalf of a loved one, as can parents of minor children. Parents of adult children, however, cannot (some exceptions may apply if the parents were receiving financial assistance from their child). An attorney can help you determine if you’re authorized to file a wrongful death suit.
Next, you begin the lawsuit by filing a complaint against the party who you believe caused your loved one’s death. From there, the legal action may settle out of court or go to trial. An attorney will work with other parties, usually a defendant’s insurance company, to decide how much a wrongful death claim is worth.
Wrongful Death Resources
There are a number of available resources that may help you determine if you have a viable wrongful death claim. These include:
Consumer Product Safety Commission
This organization provides valuable resources about product recalls, liability concerns, and safety information about pools, carbon monoxide, and other common causes of product-related death.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Here, you’ll find statistics about common factors in vehicle-related death, from car and truck accidents to pedestrian accidents.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Important information about workplace safety and trends.
Nothing can ever bring back a loved one, but a wrongful death claim can help surviving family members contend with final expenses and any loss of income. If you think you have grounds for a claim, contact a qualified wrongful death attorney in West Virginia.
Free Consultation with Our West Virginia Wrongful Death Lawyers
Your best asset when facing the death of a loved one will be a skilled attorney. Take the time to find a lawyer who not only has a proven track record for successful wrongful death claims but also displays the compassion and professionalism to handle your case thoroughly and successfully. The law firm of Tiano O’Dell, PLLC offers legal representation to citizens of West Virginia and our law firm has a wealth of experience in a wide variety of practice areas. Wrongful death is no exception, and our team will work tirelessly to handle your legal concerns so you can mourn without the stresses of a difficult claims process.
Contact us for more information about the work we do or to set up a case evaluation. Your first meeting with our team is confidential and free of charge. We’ll review the details of your claim and let you know how we can help. Our personal injury attorneys in West Virginia will help you fight for justice and fair compensation regardless of whether a loved one has died because of a defective product or a car crash.