WV Wrongful Death Lawyer Answers Top 6 FAQs About Wrongful Death Claims
As attorneys helping the families and beneficiaries of wrongful death victims throughout the State of West Virginia, we are asked questions about wrongful death claims all the time. Here we answer some of these frequently asked questions about accident fatality and death actions and why you should hire an attorney to help you. There is nothing quite like the grief that accompanies losing a loved one. This is especially true if you have unexpectedly and suddenly lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligent, reckless, or otherwise wrongful conduct.
What Is A Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim arises in West Virginia following the death of an individual (legally called the “decedent”) as a result of another’s negligence or misconduct (examples include car wrecks, medical malpractice, or criminal actions). The West Virginia Code provision governing wrongful death actions can be found at W. Va. Code §55-7-5.
Who Can Bring A Wrongful Death Action?
The personal representative of the Estate of the deceased individual may bring a wrongful death claim. This may be the Executor of the Estate, if the individual had a Will prior to passing, or may be the Administrator of the Estate, if the individual passed away without a Will. See W. Va. Code §55-7-6(a).
If there was not a will, then as a next of kin, you can be designated as the Administrator for the estate of the deceased loved one. In West Virginia, you accomplish this by going to the County clerk’s office for the County where your loved one resided, and complete some basic paperwork and pay a bond – to ensure that you faithfully carry out the duties of administering the estate, which includes tidying up all financial affairs. This would also include the handling and administration of a West Virginia wrongful death action.
Who Are Wrongful-Death Claim Beneficiaries?
Beneficiaries to a wrongful death settlement or jury verdict typically include directly related survivors, consistent with the laws of intestacy in most States. In West Virginia, the wrongful-death statute is a little more broad and allows for recovery in a wrongful death action to be awarded to the following individuals as beneficiaries:
- Surviving spouse;
- Children (including adopted children and stepchildren);
- Anyone who was financially dependent on the deceased individual at the time of his or her death; and
- Anyone else who would otherwise share in the equitable division.
The Court or a jury will determine the distribution of the settlement or jury verdict between these individuals. The estate and named beneficiaries can also reach an agreement regarding the distribution following a settlement, which the Court will be asked to approve.
If you have been named as a beneficiary in a wrongful death suit, contact our attorneys at Adams Legal Group to assess your rights and eligibility.
See W. Va. Code §55-7-6(b).
What Does A Wrongful Death Recovery Include?
In West Virginia, the law provides for a fairly comprehensive recovery potential for the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate, allowing for compensation for direct financial expenses incurred in the loss, lost wages and income, funeral expenses and all manner of mental and emotional suffering as a result of the loss of a loved one. Financial recovery in wrongful death cases vary on a case-by-case basis. However, damages (i.e., monetary compensation) pursuant to the law in West Virginia may be awarded in the form of the following:
- Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace, including society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent;
- Compensation for reasonably expected loss of income, services, protection, care, and assistance provided by the decedent;
- Expenses for the care, treatment, and hospitalization of the decedent as a result of the injury resulting in death; and
- Reasonable funeral expenses.
Punitive damages, monetary compensation designed to punish the responsible party for their wrongful conduct, may also be awarded. Punitive damages are awarded in certain instances where the party’s conduct is particularly egregious.
See W. Va. Code §55-7-6(c)(1).
How Long Do I Have To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The personal representative of the Estate has two (2) years from the date of death to initiate a wrongful death action in West Virginia. If a suit is not brought in court within that time frame, any wrongful death claims related to the death of the individual cannot be brought in the future. W. Va. Code §55-7-6(d).
Why Should I Hire A Wrongful Death Attorney?
Competent wrongful death attorneys know the ins and outs of asserting claims related to wrongful death actions and pursuing all avenues of recovery. They can help you to assess your options and to assert your rights as the personal representative of the Estate (or as a beneficiary to the Estate) and navigate the legal process of obtaining compensation for the loss of your loved one.
The experienced West Virginia wrongful death attorneys at Adams Legal Group are here to help you following the loss of your loved one. We are happy to offer free initial consultations and no-fee-up-front representation. Please contact our office at (304) 381-2166 to discuss your case.