Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult, but when someone else is to blame, it becomes more complicated and emotional. Although a wrongful death claim can’t end your pain, it may help ease your financial burden caused by the loss. In West Virginia (WV), you can trust the compassionate and experienced lawyers at William C. Brewer & Associates, PLLC to guide you through complex Morgantown wrongful death claims and fight for your right to compensation.
Morgantown Wrongful Death Claims Are Civil Lawsuits
A wrongful death action is a personal injury claim arising from the death and pursued at the request of the survivors of the deceased. However, only the estate of the deceased person (known as the decedent) has the legal authority to file a wrongful death action in West Virginia.
Whether the death was caused by a car accident, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, or some other negligent act, a Morgantown wrongful death lawyer can file a lawsuit on behalf of the decedent’s estate in the civil court system. In Morgantown wrongful death claims as well as those filed elsewhere in the state, the estate’s personal representative must prove the named defendant’s fault for the death by a preponderance of the evidence to recover money damages related to the death.
An individual found to have caused the death may also face criminal charges, but it’s important to bring a wrongful death civil claim even if a criminal case is pending from the same incident. A criminal case is controlled by a prosecuting attorney, who requests punishment such as fines or imprisonment for violating criminal law. On the other hand, a civil action filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate seeks money damages for the surviving family members to help pay expenses and compensate them for emotional losses.
Who Is the Plaintiff in a WV Wrongful Death Claim?
In personal injury cases, the person who is injured the plaintiff in a resulting personal injury lawsuit. In a wrongful death claim, the injured person has died, so the personal representative of the decedent’s estate steps into the decedent’s shoes to recover for the estate, which would likely pass to the decedent’s surviving relatives, damages to compensate for the loss of the decedent.
According to West Virginia Code § 55-7-6, the estate representative requests financial compensation on behalf of the people who were affected by the wrongful death. The court may award monetary damages to:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse
- The decedent’s children, whether natural, adopted, or step
- The decedent’s parents or siblings
- Other individuals who depended on the decedent for financial support at the time of the decedent’s death
If you are unsure who may have a right to receive compensation in these civil matters, consult with a Morgantown wrongful death lawyer.
Which Damages or Losses Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Similar to other personal injury lawsuits, you may request both economic damages (out-of-pocket expenses) and non-economic damages (nonmonetary losses that must be calculated). According to WV law, economic damages can include:
- Medical expenses related to the decedent’s last injury
- Funeral expenses and burial costs
- Wages and benefits that were lost when the decedent died and a reasonable calculation of the future wages and benefits the decedent would have earned
- Related expenses for property damage or loss such as vehicle repair or replacement
In addition to actual out-of-pocket costs, a wrongful death plaintiff can request non-economic damages including compensation for:
- The family’s loss of companionship, advice, society, guidance, and similar losses
- The family’s mental anguish and sorrow resulting from the death of their loved one
Placing a dollar value on someone’s life or the emotional loss a family experiences after a death is an extremely difficult task. A compassionate Morgantown wrongful death lawyer can help you understand what damages are possible in your situation.
Legal Limitations in Wrongful Death Cases
Under the West Virginia statute of limitations, a wrongful death claim must be brought within two years of the decedent’s date of death. Like most laws, there are some exceptions to this rule, but understanding whether your case falls within those exceptions requires a thorough understanding of the law. Generally, if a lawsuit is filed after the statutory timeframe, the case can be dismissed, preventing the estate from pursuing any compensation from the person or entity who was at fault.
Also, West Virginia courts will consider any comparative fault (sometimes called comparative negligence) on the part of the decedent when deciding whether damages are warranted and how much is reasonable. Under West Virginia Code § 55-7-13A, if the decedent is found to be 50 percent or more at fault for the incident that led to the death, the estate can recover nothing. If the decedent was less than 50 percent at fault, any damages awarded will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the decedent.
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one because of the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, you shouldn’t also have to deal with complicated laws and rules, court appearances, and stressful trial proceedings without this skilled Morgantown wrongful death attorney at the helm. Attorney William C. Brewer and his team of understanding and experienced attorneys and staff in Morgantown are ready to help wrongful death clients throughout the state.
For talented counsel with years of litigation experience with Morgantown wrongful death claims as well as those throughout the state, contact the West Virginia wrongful death lawyers at William C. Brewer & Associates, PLLC today by calling (304) 291-5800 or completing this online contact form to schedule a free consultation.