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What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death in the state of West Virginia is defined as "the death of a person shall be caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default, and the act, neglect or default". There is a burden of proof of negligence, recklessness, intention or criminality that must be made and since the person is no longer living their family or other representatives of their estate must bring the case to court.

Who can file a wrongful death claim?

West Virginia law specifies who may bring a wrongful death claim to court. The decedent's spouse, children, step children and adopted children. If there isn't a surviving spouse or children the parents or siblings of the decedent or the personal representative of their estate may bring a case to court. If the personal representative brings the claim, any damages recovered are held by the estate and benefits the decedent's next of kin.

What damages are available in a wrongful death case?

The West Virginia Code states

  • 55-7-6 c) (1) The verdict of the jury shall include, but may not be limited to, damages for the following: (A) Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent; (B) compensation for reasonably expected loss of (i) income of the decedent, and (ii) services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent; (C) expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in death; and (D) reasonable funeral expenses. (1)

Is there is a statute of limitations to bring a claim?

Yes. West Virginia has a wrongful death statute of limitations of 2 years from the time of death to bring a claim against the responsible party. There may be some exceptions made but in most cases, if a claim is not made within the 2-year statute of limitations the right to bring a claim is almost always lost.

Some of the exceptions to this limitation is if there is a criminal case pending that deals with the events surrounding the death. In this case, the statute of limitations may be suspended until the criminal case is resolved in court.

I think I have a claim, now what?

If you have a loved one, or you are the executor of an estate of someone who lost their life because of the negligence, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts of another person, you need the representation of an attorney who understands the laws surrounding wrongful death. At Brewer & Giggenbach attorneys at Law, our attorneys are completely committed to helping your family through a difficult time while doing everything possible to protect your legal and financial interests. Call us at 304-291-5800 or toll free at 1-800-355-9646 or contact us online.

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