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How Long Does a Wrongful Death Case Take?

Published on Nov 18, 2021 at 12:38 pm in Wrongful Death.

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As wrongful death attorneys with experience helping families recover after the unexpected loss of a loved one, we know there are many questions and uncertainties about the legal process. Filing a wrongful death claim can be intimidating, and often leaves families asking: How long does a wrongful death case take? It’s not an overstatement to say that every case is unique, and assigning an exact timeframe to a wrongful death case in some ways puts it at a disadvantage for a successful outcome. This is a complicated legal process that could take several months or years, depending on the circumstances.

There are many factors relevant to a personal injury case like a wrongful death case. Lawyers need to be able to devote the time necessary to determining liability and calculating damages appropriately. Under the state law of West Virginia, there is a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. This means that a wrongful death case must be commenced within two years after the death.

How long the case takes to eventually reach an outcome, however, will depend on many factors. For example, investigating and gathering evidence to support the claim, searching phone records or video footage, interviewing witnesses, negotiating with the opposing party’s legal team, and whether the case goes to court will all influence how long it takes to settle a wrongful death claim.

But it is not the responsibility of the family to deal with these legal matters themselves. The good news is that, if you have a qualified wrongful death attorney, your lawyer will put in whatever time and effort is necessary to obtain justice for a death that was entirely preventable. It is never right for a person to lose their life because of another party’s negligence, and for the surviving family to be left paying for the losses themselves. The intent of wrongful death law is to prevent this situation from ever being allowed to occur.

To better understand the legal options a family has following the wrongful death of a loved one, we will discuss what a wrongful death case really involves, who can file a claim in West Virginia, and what damages are available in this type of case.

What Is a Wrongful Death Case?

A death that could have, and should have, been prevented is known in legal terms as a wrongful death. Most wrongful deaths result from accidents caused by negligence, reckless behavior, carelessness, or willful wrongdoing. Surviving family members of a wrongful death victim are able to take legal action against the party whose negligence resulted in death.

The following types of accidents are common causes of wrongful death seen in cases:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Pharmaceutical malpractice
  • Workplace accidents
  • Defective or toxic products
  • Nursing home abuse or neglect
  • Premises liability accidents
  • Airplane accidents

In some cases, a wrongful death claim can be filed alongside a criminal case. For example, if a person commits armed robbery and kills someone during the crime, the family of the victim may be eligible to file a lawsuit. West Virginia law allows a wrongful death claim to be filed against a party facing criminal charges. The criminal charge will seek justice and punish under the law, while the claim will provide surviving family members with the compensation needed to recover losses.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim Under WV Law?

The regulations dictating who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim vary from state to state. The law for the state of West Virginia provides exact information regarding who is entitled to file a wrongful death suit in the state.

A wrongful death claim in WV must be filed by a representative, referred to as a “real party in interest.” This representative is generally an executor of the decedent’s estate, and usually a family member. Your attorney can help you determine who in your family can serve as representative of the estate. A wrongful death claim in West Virginia may be filed by:

  • Spouses
  • Biological children, adopted children, and step-children
  • Parents, including parents of a deceased fetus
  • Siblings
  • Life partners
  • Financial dependents
  • Other parties financially impacted by the victim’s death

What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?

Through a wrongful death claim, the law provides opportunity for compensation to be provided to the surviving loved ones of a person who lost their life wrongfully. Surviving family members often face steep bills, in addition to their emotional suffering. The damages available in a wrongful death case can include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Expenses for medical care, treatment, and hospitalization before death
  • Lost wages and loss of future earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace
  • Loss of companionship and love
  • Loss of care, guidance, and support
  • Loss of comfort, kindly offices, and advice
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of the services, protection, care, and assistance provided by the deceased
  • Punitive damages (when applicable)

Punitive damages, as mentioned above, may be awarded in a rare number of wrongful death cases. Punitive damages are a special category of damages that differ from “compensatory damages”—those which are meant to compensate the losses of the victim or their family. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the responsible party for wantonly reckless or malicious behavior.

In a West Virginia wrongful death case, under certain circumstances, it may be decided that the defendant’s actions were especially egregious. In such cases, punitive damages may be justly applied. Punitive damages are most commonly applied in drunk driving accidents, trucking accidents, and cases of serious workplace safety violations.

Learn More About How a Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help You

At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we have helped families recover millions of dollars in compensation after the tragic loss of a loved one. We understand deeply how the legal process works, and we use our expertise to advocate for families who are struggling with the enormous financial and emotional burdens a wrongful death has left them with. Call, visit, or contact us online to schedule a meeting to discuss your case with one of our wrongful death lawyers in Charleston, WV.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice. Viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Prior case results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
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