Losing a loved one is a heart-wrenching experience. When the loss is the result of someone else’s negligence that could have been prevented, the grieving process is that much harder. Fortunately, the justice system allows families of wrongful death victims to take legal action against the at-fault person or entity. If you believe your loved one’s passing resulted from another party’s actions or inactions, working with a Huntington wrongful death lawyer is the best way to ensure your family has the financial means to move forward.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year there are nearly 170,000 unintentional injury deaths. The most common causes of unintentional deaths included falls, motor vehicle traffic accidents, and poisonings. In regard to wrongful death, falls and poisonings are most likely to be related to premises liability or workplace injuries. Traffic accidents can involve passenger vehicles, motorcycles, commercial trucks, or pedestrians.
No matter how your loved one’s death occurred, holding the negligent party accountable for their actions is often a crucial step in processing your loss. In order to understand if their passing is considered wrongful, let’s take a look at West Virginia’s laws.
The Legal Definition of Wrongful Death in West Virginia
According to §55-7-5 of the West Virginia Code, a wrongful death occurs when an act, neglect, or default results in the death of someone. If the situation would have allowed the victim to file a personal injury claim if they had survived, the family can file a claim on their behalf. The action must be brought forward by the personal representative of the deceased who has been duly appointed by the state.
In West Virginia, a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit, but a criminal case can be filed at the same time. While a criminal case is filed by the state, a wrongful death case can be brought directly by the estate. This allowed the estate and survivors to seek compensation in the form of monetary damages. Damages could include medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, loss of companionship, and more.
Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim
Civil claims must be filed within the established statute of limitations. This is essentially the time period a state sets for how long the plaintiff has to take legal action. While the deadline changes depending on the type of case, wrongful death claims in West Virginia must be filed with two years of the person’s death date.
In some situations, the statute of limitations can be extended. Your lawyer will know the particulars of your case and if they coincide with the extension laws. For example, if the medical autopsy wasn’t completed for some time after the passing and evidence of negligence wasn’t presented until then, it’s possible the statute of limitations start date could be extended.
It’s important to note that missing the statute of limitations deadline will likely result in your claim being dismissed without review. This is because evidence weakens as time passes. When you work with an attorney, they’ll ensure you meet all the deadlines that apply to your claim.
Proving a Wrongful Death in Huntington, WV
As mentioned above, wrongful death involves negligence. Proving negligence is the only way to receive full and fair compensation. In order to do so, it’s important to understand the four elements:
- Duty. While the exact definition of duty of care varies depending on the facts of the case, the idea is that the other person had a responsibility to keep the other safe or refrain from doing something that would cause them harm. For example, drivers owe others on the road a duty of care to drive responsibly and avoid causing accidents.
- Breach of Duty. To prove the defendant breached their duty, your lawyer will use evidence from your case investigation that shows they did not abide by their legal duty. If a driver runs a stop sign and strikes a motorcyclist in an intersection, they breached their duty.
- Causation. Causation refers to how the breach of duty caused harm. Proof of fatal injuries is often needed at this stage.
- Damages. After the causation correlation’s been made, your lawyer will prove that your loved one and your family suffered damages. The losses can be economic or noneconomic. They are the main factor in determining how much compensation is owed.
Seek Justice for Your Loved One
Our Huntington wrongful death lawyers will handle your family’s claim with the utmost respect and care. We recognize how challenging of a time it is to grieve the loss of a loved one while pursuing legal action against the party that caused the death. We’ll handle the paperwork and difficult conversations for you, so you can spend time with your family.
To learn more about filing a wrongful death claim, contact our office today. We’ll set up a free case evaluation to discuss the merits of your potential claim.