If a loved one has died as the result of another's negligence, you may be eligible for compensation in a wrongful death claim.
When an individual dies due to another's negligence, the family of the deceased may file suit against the responsible party. In order to do this, the family must prove that the accused person or company was indeed responsible for their loved one's death. This may be done through medical records, witnesses, police reports, and other evidence depending on the type of case.
West Virginia State Code Chapter 55, Article 7, Sections 5-8 defines a West Virginia resident's right to pursue and collect on a wrongful death settlement. The code requires that a wrongful death action is filed by the personal representative of the deceased. The personal representative may be the administrator of the deceased individual's estate.
According to the West Virginia code, the following family members may be awarded compensation in a wrongful death case:
- surviving spouses;
- children (including adopted and stepchildren);
- parents; and
- other financial dependants.
Families seeking to file a claim can work with a Clarksburg wrongful death attorney during their claim settlement, as there are many questions to be resolved during the settlement process. One of the main areas of focus in these cases is determining who is considered a wrongful death beneficiary and therefore able to collect compensation from the settlement.
There are also cases where the court does not stipulate the wrongful death beneficiaries. In these cases, the deceased's will may be used to determine beneficiaries and amount of compensation.
Once the wrongful death lawsuit is resolved and the settlement is obtained, it is appropriately distributed amongst the appropriate beneficiaries. If there is any question about settlement distribution, family members may consult a Clarksburg wrongful death attorney for legal assistance.
In a wrongful death claim, the family of the deceased may be awarded compensation for:
- Medical costs - This applies to the costs of medical care from the time of the accident or injury until death.
- Loss of earnings - When a family member dies, their financial contributions go with them, which may cause further difficulties for the family. Compensation for lost earnings is meant to help ease the burden.
- Funeral costs - Today, the average funeral costs anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000, which can be challenging for some families, particularly those who have just lost an income.
- Loss or services and support - When someone loses a spouse, they lose the unique benefits that a marital relationship provides. A wrongful death claim may award compensation for these losses.
When determining compensation, the court will calculate medical costs and project the likely earnings the deceased would have contributed had they not passed away.
When a decision is reached regarding damages, the trustee or executor will decide how to distribute the damages The family is usually able to agree amongst themselves on the distribution of the damages, but if for whatever reason the family is unable to decide how to distribute damages, a judge will make the determination.
When determining the beneficiaries of a wrongful death case, the courts may find several family members may be eligible to claim a portion of the damages. Family members who believe they have a right to a share of the settlement due to loss of financial or emotional support may consult a Clarksburg wrongful death attorney to discuss eligibility.
How Much Compensation is Available for a Wrongful Death Claim?
There is no set value for a wrongful death claim; each case has unique circumstances that factor into the settlement amount. As outlined in the West Virginia code §55-7-6(c)(1), a wrongful death settlement may include, "damages for the following: (A) Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent; (B) compensation for reasonably expected loss of (i) income of the decedent, and (ii) services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent; (C) expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in death; and (D) reasonable funeral expenses."
The loss of income potential of a fairly young person could result in a settlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and settlement of these cases may be very substantial. A Clarksburg wrongful death attorney can go over the damages that may be available in addition to identifying wrongful death beneficiaries in the case.