Wrongful Death is how lawyers describe when someone is killed through the fault of someone else. The cause of someone’s dying can be anything from an intentional act (which would be prosecuted criminally) to a car crash. When someone else causes someone to die, it is generally called wrongful death. West Virginia has a fairly progressive wrongful death law which allows the survivors and dependents–usually the family–to bring a lawsuit against the wrongdoer.
The person who brings the suit is the official representative of the estate. In West Virginia, the official representative would be the Administrator or Executor. The lawsuit can seek monetary compensation for the family for the sorrow and loss experienced; the loss of services, protection, care and assistance provided; the future lost income of the person who died; the expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization prior to the death along with reasonable funeral expenses. The West Virginia law covering what may be recovered in a lawsuit is found here.
One of the important considerations for a family is how the award or settlement is divided. If the case goes to trial, a jury decides the percentages that family members will receive. However, if the case is settled, it is important for family members to try to agree on the division. Otherwise, there will be a mini-trial before a judge decides how to split the proceeds. The law was written to try to make sure the proceeds were fairly distributed. The people who are entitled to share the award include “the surviving spouse and children, including adopted children and stepchildren, brothers, sisters, parents and any persons who were financially dependent… or would otherwise be equitably entitled to share.” This means that unmarried couples still have rights. It also means that parents are not necessarily treated equally if one of them had no relationship with a child that died. This law is found here.
The most important task for those who have lost a loved one because of someone else’s fault is to talk to a lawyer as quickly as possible. The deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in West Virginia is two years after the date of death. There are many issues that should be examined prior to filing the lawsuit, so it is important to call a Wrongful Death Attorney as soon as possible. If you have lost a loved one, then contact us to request a no cost evaluation.