West Virginia law provides that the family of a deceased victim can file a wrongful death claim to pursue compensation for damages. Children of the deceased, both biological and adopted, are potential beneficiaries in a wrongful death case. Stepchildren may also be beneficiaries if they depended on the deceased for support.
When the courts determine a settlement award for a wrongful death case involving minor beneficiaries, they’ll consider a number of factors. The age of the child and the degree s/he was dependent upon their deceased parent for emotional and financial support are two of the primary factors that come into play. Learn more about the effect of children in a wrongful death case below.
Loss of Deceased’s Emotional Support to the Child
The courts understand that children depend on their parents for emotional support. When determining the outcome of the case, the courts will consider the following services that a parent would normally supply a child.
- loss of companionship.
- loss of advice and instruction.
- and, loss of parental guidance.
The younger a child is and the closer the child’s relationship was to the deceased parent, the greater impact the death might have on him or her. Thus, the court may give emotional support damages more weight.
Child’s Loss of Services from the Deceased
Another factor taken into consideration if there are children in a wrongful death case is the loss of care provided by the deceased. Children depend upon their parents to take care of them and monitor them on a daily basis. Wrongful death claims with minor beneficiaries often incorporate damages for loss of support and household services.
For instance, if the child’s father was sole earner in the family and passed away, the mother who normally provided daily care for the child might be forced to put the child in daycare so that she can seek outside employment.
The cost of daycare services may be included in the judgment or settlement. If the child has special needs, extra cost of special needs services would also be taken into account.
Financial Support from the Deceased
If the child was dependent upon the deceased for financial support, these losses will be figured into the settlement. Lost financial support may include the following.
- cost of housing and food.
- lost child support (if the deceased was not the primary custodial parent).
- loss of benefits and insurance.
- and, loss of education funds (if the deceased was paying for the child’s tuition prior to his or her death).
Talk to your attorney for more specific information about how the deceased’s financial support affects children in a wrongful death case.
Settlement Awards are Discretionary
The purpose of a wrongful death case is to collect compensation for damages caused by the other party’s negligence. In West Virginia, there is some discretion when it comes to determining a fair settlement amount in court, if the parties do not arrive at a settlement.
West Virginia Code - §55-7-6(b) provides: “In every such action for wrongful death, the jury, or in a case tried without a jury, the court, may award such damages as to it may seem fair and just, and, may direct in what proportions the damages shall be distributed…”
Because the courts have the liberty to determine the amount of a wrongful death award, it’s important to effectively prove the full extent of the damages suffered by children in a wrongful death case. Seek legal help to provide sufficient evidence of liability and the extent of damages.
Call the Miley Legal Group for Wrongful Death Cases in Clarksburg
The Miley Legal Group handles all types of wrongful death cases, including those involving minors. If you are considering filing a claim in Clarksburg, you can contact our firm for a free, no-obligation consultation about children and wrongful death cases.
If you have a valid case, we can do the following to make easier and expedite your claim.
- explain and guide you through the legal process.
- estimate the value of your claim.
- demonstrate your case to the court.
- and, fight for the best settlement for you and your family.
Call us today (304) 931-4088 to schedule your free case evaluation.