Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding the wrongful death claims process in West Virginia. As a result, families of victims are being denied justice. If you or someone you know have lost a loved one as a result of the actions, negligence, or malice of any individual or entity, please read on and share this important information.
You Can File a Claim With or Without a Criminal Conviction
In West Virginia, those who have lost a loved one as a result of another party’s actions have a right to pursue justice through the criminal justice system, as well as through civil litigation. It is important to remember that whether or not the at-fault party has been convicted of a crime, you may be able to seek damages for your losses. Often, the standard of proof for civil cases is less than that of criminal cases. Therefore, even if an individual has been acquitted in criminal court, the pursuit of a wrongful death civil suit may still be successful.
Wrongful Death Claims Can Be Filed Against ANYONE Who Is At-Fault
A wrongful death claim may be pursued against any at-fault person, company, entity, or governmental institution. Whether the death in question was intentional, the result of an accident, an act of personal or professional negligence (including medical malpractice), a defective product, a workplace accident (under certain circumstances involving deliberate intent), homicide, or any other cause, you may have a valid claim. If the decedent is found to be 50% or more at fault for his own death, recovery is barred under West Virginia’s comparative fault rule. Regardless of the circumstances, you should not assume your loved one was responsible for his own death. Contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law for a complimentary case evaluation.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The personal representative of an estate (as named in the decedent’s will, by probate court, or the custodial parent of a minor child) may file a wrongful death claim for damages caused by the at-fault party within two years of the date of death (with some exceptions). The following elements are required to file a claim:
1. The death of an individual occurred.
2. The death was caused by the negligent/reckless/malicious act of another.
3. Surviving family members suffered monetary loss as a result of the death.
4. A personal representative has been appointed for the decedent’s estate.
Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law can assist you every step of the way to get justice for the wrongful death of your loved one.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Compensation for Damages In a Wrongful Death Claim?
Any amount recovered in a successful wrongful death claim is to be distributed by the personal representative of the estate, in proper proportions as directed by the court or as otherwise specified according to the decedent’s will or by law, as applicable, to the following survivors:
-Children (including adopted and stepchildren)
-Any individuals who were financially dependent upon the decedent at the time of death
Some additional provisions may apply in accordance with law.
What Types of Damages Can be Awarded In a Wrongful Death Claim?
Several types of damages may be awarded in a wrongful death claim, including tangible, intangible, and punitive damages.
Tangible damages are compensation for actual expenses financial losses incurred, including any relevant medical and hospital bills, lost wages and benefits (including the value of those which likely would have been earned had the individual not suffered wrongful death), loss of services provided by the decedent, lost and/or damaged property, funeral and burial expenses, and other actual expenses directly related to the claim.
Intangible expenses are compensation for severe non-monetary damages and losses affecting surviving family members that may include compensation for sorrow, mental anguish, and solace (including the loss of society, companionship, comfort, guidance, and kindly offices and advice of the decedent.
Punitive damages may be awarded in wrongful death cases where the actions of the at-fault party were particularly malicious, reckless, and/or intentional. These damages are intended to serve as both a punishment and a societal deterrence.
Actual damages awarded rest upon the discretion of the jury and judge, but are generally arrived at in consideration of such factors as the decedent’s age, health, life expectancy, and earning capacity, as well as certain circumstances affecting the decedent’s family.
On behalf of the entire legal team at Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law, please accept our sincere condolences for your loss. While we accept that no amount of financial compensation can remotely address your loss, please know that we are available when you are ready to hold the at-fault parties accountable for their actions. This can be an important part of the grieving process. If you have lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s wrongful actions, contact the wrongful death legal team at Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law for compassionate legal guidance during this most difficult time: (304) 292-4381.
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