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What if a Victim Passes Away While Pursuing a Personal Injury Claim?

December 1, 2021 | Wrongful Death

When a person sustains an injury caused by the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of another individual or entity, they will usually be able to recover compensation for their losses through a civil personal injury lawsuit in West Virginia. However, if an injury victim passes away while their personal injury lawsuit is ongoing, the victim’s surviving family members or the administrator of their estate will be responsible for continuing the lawsuit on their behalf. However, this could become a wrongful death claim at this point.

How Would a Personal Injury Claim Become a Wrongful Death Claim

When many people think of wrongful death lawsuits, they think of a person who was killed instantly as a result of the actions of another. However, that is not always what happens. There are times when a person sustains an injury or illness caused by another party but does not lose their life immediately. In some cases, individuals can live for a period of time after the injury or illness occurs. Sometimes, this timeframe is only a few minutes, but it is not uncommon for individuals to succumb to their injuries or illness days, weeks, or even months later.

Looking at W.Va. Code § 55-7-5 (2021), we can see that the law in this state says that wrongful death claims arise anytime a person is killed as a result of the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another individual or entity. Specifically, the law says that wrongful death claims can be pursued in any case where the actions of another would have permitted the deceased to file a personal injury lawsuit had they survived.

What is the Time Frame to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In West Virginia, the personal injury and wrongful death statute of limitations are both two years. For personal injury claims, the civil case must be filed within two years from the date the injury occurred. For wrongful death cases, the claim must be filed in civil court within two years from the date of death of the deceased.

If a person loses their life while their personal injury case is ongoing, but their death was not associated with the injury the case is pertaining to, then the family members and the estate of the deceased will continue the personal injury lawsuit on behalf of the victim. In this situation, the statute of limitations will not change from the original two-year time frame from when the injury occurred.

If a person loses their life while their case is ongoing and their death is associated with the injuries in question, the personal representative of the estate may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit and pursue compensation through that route. In this situation, the statute of limitations will be extended to two years from the date of death.

Work With an Attorney for Help With These Claims

These situations can become incredibly challenging, and the variables associated with personal injury and wrongful death claims will alter depending on the reason a person passed away while their case was ongoing. We strongly encourage you to work with a skilled Martinsburg wrongful death attorney who can handle every aspect of the claim on your behalf.