Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits In West Virginia

If a loved one is killed as a result of someone else's negligence, neglect or wrongful act, certain family members can seek recovery for financial injury from those who are responsible for the death. This type of lawsuit is called a wrongful death suit and is a powerful tool for family members who have lost a source of support to seek legal redress.

In a recent example, a West Virginia woman is suing a hospital for the wrongful death of her mother. The daughter claims that the hospital failed to provide her mother with the necessary supervision and care to reduce her risk of falling. As a result of their failure to supervise, the daughter claims that her mother fell, suffering a hematoma. Ultimately, the hematoma caused a coma, eventually resulting in the mother's death.

Wrongful Death In West Virginia

In West Virginia, the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is controlled by statute. Under the statute, the following must be met in order to file a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • The death of a person
  • That is caused by the neglect, default or wrongful act of a person, company or government entity (e.g., medical malpractice, car accidents or industrial accidents)
  • And the decedent would have been entitled to sue the person, company or government entity for damages had he or she lived

A personal representative of the decedent, rather than the decedent's relatives, must bring the wrongful death lawsuit. Under West Virginia law, the court (or jury) may award damages and order them to be distributed to the surviving spouse and children of the decedent. In some cases, the brothers, sisters or parents of the decedent may be entitled to recover damages, depending on if they were financially dependent on the decedent when he or she died.

In the cases where there are not any surviving family members who qualify for damages, the compensation received under the lawsuit is distributed according to the terms of the decedent's will. If there is no will, the intestacy laws – laws that regulate the distribution of property if the decedent does not have a will – control how the compensation is distributed.

Under the wrongful death statute, eligible family members may recover funeral and medical expenses of the decedent. In addition, damages for the following may be awarded:

  • Sorrow or mental anguish
  • Loss of society, companionship or advice of the decedent
  • Loss of income of the decedent
  • Loss of services, care or protection provided by the decedent

If the decedent's death was caused by an act that is especially reckless, malicious or intentional, punitive damages can also be awarded on top of the other damages. Such damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer for his or her actions and to deter similar future conduct.

Consult An Attorney

The law surrounding wrongful death is complicated and full of exceptions. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else's carelessness, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can advise you on your claim and work to obtain the compensation that you deserve.