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The basics of a wrongful death lawsuit in West Virginia

When an individual suffers an injury due to another party's negligent or wrongful actions, that person can file what’s known as a personal injury lawsuit to recover for the losses stemming from the injury. 

But what happens when the individual dies because of the wrongful acts of another? In the state of West Virginia, the law allows for a wrongful death lawsuit.

 

Who can sue?

If an individual dies as a result of another party’s negligence, the law in West Virginia stipulates that the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death suit.

The law also states: “in every such action for wrongful death, the jury or court may award such damages as to it may seem fair and may direct in what proportions the damages shall be distributed to the surviving spouse and children” and potentially parents siblings and certain other survivors.

What type of damages are available?

The types of damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit are wide ranging and will depend on individual circumstances.

Several available in West Virginia include but are not limited to:

  • The sorrow and mental anguish, including lost comfort companionship suffered by the survivors, along with loss of services, protection, care and assistance provided by the deceased
  • Loss of the decedent’s income
  • Expenses incurred for the decedent’s care, treatment and hospitalization prior to death
  • The decedent’s funeral and burial expenses

Does the court award punitive damages?

Yes, the state of West Virginia allows for the recovery of punitive damages in certain wrongful death actions. Courts could award punitive damages if the death was caused by the “malicious, reckless or intentional act of the defendant.”

A driver who recklessly operated a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and caused an accident that resulted in another party’s death is a type of situation that could warrant a punitive damage award.

Is there a specific timeframe to file? 

Yes, wrongful death lawsuits in West Virginia must be “commenced within two years after the death of such deceased person.” If a personal representative fails to file suit within this specified window of time, recovering any amount of damages for a wrongful death may be prohibited.  Don’t wait to have an attorney investigate the potential case. 

Personal representatives or family members who wish to inquire further about filing a wrongful death lawsuit in West Virginia are encouraged to reach out to an experienced professional who can offer personalized guidance.

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