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The rights of a surviving spouse after a fatal car crash

The unexpected loss of a loved one in a preventable accident turns your life upside down. Many people experience strong emotions, ranging from depression to anger, while also needing to deal with planning a funeral and trying to maintain normalcy at home.

Not only will you need to find a way to process the impact of this loss on your family, but you will need to consider the financial consequences of such a death. The expectations of the world will continue to hurtle forward, even as you are still reeling with the shock of an unexpected loss.

Without the income your spouse brought home and the social and practical support they offered you on a daily basis, you may find yourself struggling to get by. A wrongful death lawsuit won't make all of the issues that arise after a sudden loss disappear, but it can at least alleviate some of the problems that follow.

Only close family members and dependents can claim wrongful death

The West Virginia statutes that authorize surviving family members to bring wrongful death actions also put limits on the right to file a claim to the dependents of the deceased.

A spouse is effectively depending on the person they marry, so they have a right to see compensation after a wrongful death. The same is true of children of the deceased, their parents or siblings, and other financially dependent family members. In the event that such family members are not available or cannot take action, the estate of the deceased can also pursue a wrongful death case.

What constitutes a wrongful death?

Unlike homicide, which involves someone acting with the intention to cause harm, a wrongful death usually does not result from any sort of malicious intent. Instead, it is a death that could be considered accidental, except that the negligence or wrongful acts of one person or group of people directly contributed to the death.

Choosing to get behind the wheel after having too many drinks could result in a wrongful death claim. While the impaired driver did not have the intent to cause harm to someone else, their actions directly resulted in the loss of life. A wrongful death lawsuit is an option whether or not criminal charges occurred after the loss of your loved one.

What compensation can you seek through a wrongful death claim?

The wrongful death statute allows you to seek compensation for monetary losses. Those losses could include the wages that your loved one would have earned, the value of any property damaged or destroyed in the accident, the cost of medical care your loved one received after the accident and funeral costs. Additionally, family members can seek compensation for their grief and emotional distress as well as the loss of support from their loved one.

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