Losing a loved one is never easy; but when the passing happens unexpectedly, it can be even harder to cope with. Some unexpected deaths are the result of negligence, which implies that they could have been prevented. If you believe you’ve wrongfully lost a loved one, our Morgantown wrongful death lawyers can help you file a claim to hold the responsible party accountable and seek compensation for your financial and noneconomic losses.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Morgantown
A wrongful death happens when negligent actions or inaction result in someone’s passing. Common events that result in wrongful death include car crashes, truck accidents, motorcycle wrecks, medical malpractice, product liability, and premises liability.
A claim can be filed in circumstances where the decedent would have been able to file a personal injury claim against the negligent party if they had survived.
Our state’s wrongful death laws can be found in West Virginia Code section 55-7-6. According to this section, a personal representative of an estate can bring a wrongful death claim to court. If damages are awarded, surviving family members may be eligible.
Wrongful death claims are considered to be civil cases, but a criminal case can take place at the same time. A personal representative may consider filing a civil claim even if there’s an ongoing criminal trial to seek compensation in the form of monetary damages for the surviving family members.
Statute of Limitations in West Virginia
One of the most important deadlines any personal injury claim needs to abide by is the statute of limitations. This is the time limit a person has to bring a claim forward. In West Virginia, all wrongful death actions must be filed within two years of the death date.
In some cases, there may be exceptions to that statute of limitations. If, for example, a person passed away as a result of medical malpractice, but it wasn’t discovered until weeks or months later, an extension may apply. Your lawyer will be able to determine when the statute of limitations started for your claim, how long it lasts, and when it ends.
It’s important to note that if the statute of limitations passes and a personal representative files a claim, it’s likely to be dismissed without review. This is because the value of evidence decreases over time. In order to prevent jeopardizing the compensation you receive, contact an attorney as soon as you believe you have grounds to file a claim.
To receive compensation via a wrongful death case in our state, you must be a surviving spouse, child, stepchild, adopted child, parent, sibling, or financially dependent family member. The total amount of compensation is based on the following factors:
- Funeral and Burial Expenses. Funeral and burial expenses often cost thousands of dollars. When a family is already experiencing financial pressure, more bills can make it impossible to keep the lights on.
- Medical Bills. It’s likely that your loved one incurred significant medical bills prior to passing. Whether life-saving measures were attempted, or they were made comfortable in a hospital setting, it’s not uncommon for surviving family members to be left with medical bills in the range of tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.
- Pain and Suffering. Families can be compensated for damages like grief. Loss of companionship, guidance, or child-rearing abilities are also included under pain and suffering. This total is challenging to calculate, as it’s not based on specific amounts. That’s why it’s important to work with an attorney who will know how to value your noneconomic damages.
- Lost earnings. If your loved one was your family’s primary financial provider, staying on track with bills and expenses may seem impossible. When you file a claim, you can be compensated for the amount of money your loved one would have been expected to earn if their life had not been cut short.
- Punitive Damages. Punitive damages do not apply to all cases. They serve to punish the negligent party for their actions. Common cases where punitive damages may apply include drunk driving accidents or safety violations in the workplace.
Factors that Affect the Value of a Claim
There are a number of factors that could impact the total amount of compensation you receive after filing a claim. For example, the number of beneficiaries and the age of the deceased will have a significant bearing. The value of a claim for someone who was married with dependent children will be higher than if the person was older and single.
The presence of insurance coverage could also affect the claim. If the negligent party is uninsured or underinsured, damages may only be recoverable if they have substantial personal assets. Your lawyer will know the ins and outs of your claim and the elements that could affect it.
Secure Your Family’s Future
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we understand how difficult it is to unexpectedly lose a loved one. If you think negligence played a role in your loved one’s passing, it’s your legal right to take action against the negligent party. Our Morgantown wrongful death lawyers are prepared to build a case on your behalf and represent you.
With our help, your family with have the compensation needed to take care of your loved one’s end-of-life expenses, in addition to monetary recovery for the economic and noneconomic losses we discussed above. To learn about taking action after a wrongful death, contact our firm today. We’ll support and guide you every step of the way.