It’s always difficult to handle a loved one’s premature death, but it’s especially hard when you know that death was utterly avoidable.
A wrongful death claim won’t restore your loved one to you, but it may bring a measure of justice to their memory and help hold anybody who negligently, recklessly or intentionally caused their death accountable.
How do wrongful death claims and criminal charges differ?
Sometimes, the person responsible for someone’s untimely death ends up facing criminal charges as a result. You commonly see that, for example, after drunk driving wrecks where someone is killed or bar fights that end in death. Criminal charges are always brought by the state.
By comparison, a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim brought by a private party. Whereas criminal cases seek to punish the defendant via jail time and fines, a civil claim asks for monetary damages to compensate the deceased’s survivors for losing their loved one. Some of the damages that can be claimed include:
- Medical bills related to the deceased’s final injury or illness
- Reasonable funeral expenses and burial costs
- The loss of income that the deceased would have brought to their family, or the loss of their personal services
- Compensation for the mental anguish and sorrow suffered by the deceased’s loved ones
Wrongful death claims and criminal cases that follow after someone’s death are entirely separate from each other. In fact, wrongful death lawsuits can be brought even if the state decides not to press charges for the death.
Who can bring a wrongful death claim in West Virginia?
In this state, the only person with standing to file a claim is the decedent’s personal representative. If they have a will, then that person is typically the executor of their estate. If they have no executor, someone will have to ask the court to appoint them to the position.
It’s important to understand that you must bring any wrongful death claim within two years of the victim’s death, or otherwise, you will lose your chance to do so forever.
When a loved one’s death could have been avoided, it’s difficult to know what to do next. Learn more about your legal options as soon as possible so that you can best protect your family’s interests.