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How Much Can I Recover in a Wrongful Death Case?

December 30, 2021 | Wrongful Death

Family members who have lost a loved one due to the negligent or intentional actions of another individual or entity are often able to recover compensation through wrongful death lawsuits in West Virginia. However, there is no set amount of compensation paid for these claims. Rather, the total amount of compensation families or an estate will receive will vary depending on the facts surrounding each particular claim. Here, we want to examine the factors that affect total compensation payouts for a successful wrongful death claim.

Understanding Wrongful Death Compensation in West Virginia

According to W.Va. Code § 55-7-5 (2021), there is no specified amount of money awarded for a wrongful death case in West Virginia. Every claim must be examined independently in order to determine how much compensation, if any, plaintiffs should be awarded.

Wrongful death cases are brought by the personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate on behalf of surviving family members. The wrongful death law in West Virginia specifically says that:

“In its verdict the jury shall set forth separately the amount of damages, if any, awarded by it for reasonable funeral, hospital, medical and said other expenses incurred as a result of the wrongful act, neglect or default of the defendant or defendants which resulted in death, and any such amount recovered for such expenses shall be so expended by the personal representative.”

If a wrongful death claim in West Virginia is successful, the court may order the defendant to pay a wide range of damages to the survivors of the deceased. Typically, the damages associated with a wrongful death claim in this state include the following:

  • Any medical expenses arising after the injury and before the deceased passed away
  • Mental anguish of the deceased after the injury but before their death
  • Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace of the survivors
  • Loss of society, comfort, guidance, companionship, and advice of the deceased
  • Lost income the deceased would have been expected to earn had they survived
  • Loss of the deceased’s assistance, protection, services, and care
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Legal expenses associated with the wrongful death claim

How is a Proper Amount of Compensation Established?

In order to properly determine total losses associated with a wrongful death claim in West Virginia, plaintiffs and their wrongful death attorneys will work with trusted medical and economic experts who can help adequately calculate total losses. Properly evaluating the value of a life is incredibly difficult, but it must be done so with as much precision as possible.

Some other factors that will be taken into consideration include the occupation of the deceased, the expected lifespan of the deceased, the expected income level the deceased would have risen to, future promotions, and more.

The state of West Virginia does not typically limit the total amount of compensation that can be awarded to the estate and family members if the wrongful death claim is successful. There is no cap on economic damages, and the only cap on non-economic damages applies to cases involving wrongful death lawsuits against health care providers. In these specific situations, non-economic damages cannot exceed $500,000. For all other types of wrongful death lawsuits, there is no cap on non-economic losses.