Can You File a Lawsuit After a Loved One’s Death?

Losing a loved one is difficult under any circumstances. When the death occurred due to the negligent or intentional acts of someone else, the loss can be unbearable. This can happen due to assault, although criminal charges and wrongful death lawsuits are two separate matters. Medical malpractice and car accidents are two other common examples of when people die as the direct result of the actions of others.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in West Virginia?

State law allows a representative of the estate of the deceased to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. If successful, the following people are eligible to receive financial compensation:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Biological children, adopted children, and stepchildren
  • Others who depended on the deceased for financial support at the time of his or her death

This list can be found in West Virginia Code Section 55-7-6. However, each state has a different interpretation of who qualifies as immediate family or a financial dependent in the case of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Potential Types of Financial Compensation

The sad reality is that even a successful lawsuit of millions of dollars won’t bring back the beloved family member. However, those who loved him or her the most may be eligible to collect some or all of the following types of damages:

  • Compensation for sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance and advice of the decedent
  • Expenses related to funeral and burial
  • Medical bills incurred for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the deceased
  • Lost wages, benefits and compensation for the loss of services, care and assistance provided by the decedent

Statute of Limitations and Comparative Fault

West Virginia law caps the amount of time a family representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit at two years. This is from the date of death, not from the original date of injury. Another important thing to know is that families cannot collect on a wrongful death claim if the deceased individual was 50 percent or more responsible for his or her own fatal injuries.
If you find yourself in this difficult situation, our hearts go out to you. Please contact our office for a free, confidential consultation.

Photo credit: “Creative Commons fleeting life” by Tom and Selena Middleton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Preston Counties in West Virginia West Virginia Fayette
and Greene Counties in Pennsylvania Pennsylvania
and Garrett County, Maryland


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