Causes of Wrongful Death

December 10, 2021

Anytime a person loses their life due to the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of another person or entity, family members or the estate of the deceased should be able to recover compensation for their losses. Wrongful death claims arise in various ways throughout West Virginia. Here, we want to examine the most common causes of wrongful death as well as whether or not an associated criminal case can affect the claim in civil court.

Defining Wrongful Death and Examining How These Claims Arise

W.Va. Code § 55-7-5 (2021) states wrongful death claims arise anytime a person’s death is caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another individual or entity. More specifically, the wrongful death laws in West Virginia are written to say that these claims can be pursued in any situation where the actions of another would have permitted the deceased to file a personal injury lawsuit had they survived the incident.

Wrongful death claims arise in a variety of ways throughout West Virginia. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the ways that wrongful death claims arise in West Virginia. We strongly encourage you to contact a skilled Martinsburg wrongful death attorney who can fully examine every aspect of your claim and help you determine the best steps moving forward for your situation.

The estate and family members may be able to recover various types of compensation for their losses. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Cost of medical expenses associated with the injury and death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of the deceased’s protection, care, and services
  • Lost income the deceased would have and expected to earn had they lived
  • Loss of society, comfort, guidance, and advice of the deceased

What if There Are Criminal Charges?

There is a common misconception that individuals cannot file wrongful death claims if there are criminal charges associated with the case. This is not true. Wrongful death lawsuits happen in civil court and are filed by the personal representative of the estate on behalf of surviving family members.

Prosecutors on behalf of the state are responsible for filing charges against individuals in criminal court. It is not uncommon for there to be both a criminal case and a civil case associated with a death. However, civil wrongful death claims can be filed regardless of whether or not there are criminal charges or even if a person is found not guilty of criminal charges involving the death.

Keeping Timelines in Mind

It is crucial for any person who thinks they have a valid wrongful death claim to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. In West Virginia, the wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. If the estate of the deceased fails to file a wrongful death lawsuit within this two-year timeframe, it is unlikely that the family or the estate will receive compensation for their losses. The case will likely be dismissed.


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