Wrongful death is the death of a person caused by another person or entity. When a person dies wrongfully, the law allows a representative of the deceased person to make a claim against the wrongdoer for financial compensation. A wrongful death claim is a civil action and is separate from any criminal charges that a wrongdoer may also face.
It is a tragic loss to any family when someone they love dies unexpectedly at the hands of another. And it is certainly true that suing the wrongdoer cannot replace the loss that has been suffered. But the law tries to at least ease the financial burden that might otherwise result as a consequence of a family member’s death. The compensation that is awarded for a wrongful death generally goes to certain family members of the deceased person.
At Salango Law, we sympathize with families who have lost loved ones due to the inappropriate actions of others. Our compassionate Charleston wrongful death lawyers help those who have lost a family member to secure the compensation they need to start putting their lives back together.
Why Choose Our Charleston Wrongful Death Lawyers?
We understand this is a very difficult time and we are here to support you through it.
- Our clients come first – We are dedicated to giving our clients the best possible experience.
- We have earned the trust of the community – Salango Law has received numerous legal industry recognitions for the work we do and how well we do it.
- We get top results for our clients – We have obtained over $100,000,000 on behalf of our clients.
What a Charleston Wrongful Death Attorney Can Do for You
Pursuing a wrongful death claim can be costly and often requires both legal and medical expertise.
- A wrongful death attorney will have the resources to advance the costs necessary to proceed with your claim.
- A wrongful death attorney will be experienced handling similar cases and will know how to evaluate your claim to spot issues needing further investigation.
- A wrongful death attorney will know how to obtain the evidence to prove your claim and use it in the way that gets you the best results.
Who Can Make a Claim for Wrongful Death in West Virginia?
The right to make a claim for wrongful death in West Virginia is governed by statute. Any time the death of a person is caused by wrongful act, neglect or default and had the person not died a claim for personal injury could have been made, an action for death by a wrongful act exists.
Though some states allow certain family members to bring wrongful death claims, in West Virginia, the right to file an action for wrongful death is given to the personal representative of the deceased person. The personal representative is the person named by the decedent’s will or is court appointed if there is no will.
Persons Entitled to Receive Compensation in a Wrongful Death Action
The people entitled to receive compensation awarded on behalf of a wrongful death are close family, dependents, and anyone who provides care or services to the deceased person as a result of the actions of the wrongdoer.
- providers of funeral, hospital or medical services to the decedent as a result of the wrongful act
- surviving spouse
- children (including adopted and step-children)
- brothers and sisters
- other financial dependents
If the decedent has none of the above survivors, then distribution will be made according to the terms of his or her will. If no will exists, then compensation will be disbursed according to state inheritance laws.
Types of Compensation That Can Be Awarded for a Wrongful Death
The compensation that can be awarded for a wrongful death includes economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
- loss of future contributions by the decedent – including income, services, protection, care and assistance
- medical or hospital expenses incurred by the decedent
- funeral expenses
- sorrow, mental anguish, and solace (to include the society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent)
- pain & suffering – where there is evidence of conscious pain and suffering between the injury and death
- awarded if the wrongdoer acted with ‘malice’ or a ‘conscious, reckless and outrageous indifference to the health, safety and welfare’ of the decedent
Limits on Compensation for Wrongful Death Claims
The compensation amounts in a wrongful death claim can be limited by the actions of the decedent that contributed to causing his or her death, the type of injury that resulted in the decedent’s death and the type of damages being awarded.
Decedent’s comparative fault – In West Virginia, if the decedent’s fault for his or her death is greater than 50%, all recovery is barred. But as long as the decedent’s fault is 50% or less, the damages award will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to the decedent.
Wrongful death caused by medical malpractice – When a wrongful death is caused by the wrongful act of a health care provider, the non-economic damages are limited to $500,000.
Punitive damage awards – Awards of punitive damages are limited to the greater of 4x economic plus non-economic damages or $500,000.
What Happens When a Decedent Also Has a Personal Injury Claim?
A severe injury may be sustained that does not immediately result in death. The period of time between the injury and death may give rise to a personal injury claim. The personal injury claim does not die with the decedent whether or not the claim has been started prior to death.
If a personal injury action was started before the decedent’s death, the decedent’s personal representative may ‘revive’ the action and pursue it to completion. If a personal injury claim was not started prior to the decedent’s death and the applicable filing period has not run out, the personal representative may initiate the claim on behalf of the decedent.
The only reason to make both personal injury and wrongful death claims would be if one kind of compensation were available under one cause of action and not the other. Making the two claims does not double the potential recovery. There can only be one recovery for each element of damage.
How to Get Started With a Wrongful Death Claim in Charleston
Since the personal representative of the decedent must be the one to bring a wrongful death claim, the first thing that needs to be done is to have that person officially recognized by the court. The personal representative then has 2 years from the date of death in which to file a wrongful death action. Once a claim has been filed, the wrongdoer’s responsibility for the death must be established and evidence gathered to support an award of damages.
Contact Our Charleston Wrongful Death Attorneys
The Charleston wrongful death attorneys at Salango Law know that thorough preparation gets better results for our clients in less time. We work hard to build a strong case from the beginning, which gives us an advantage in negotiating successful outcomes for our clients. We are confident in our ability to provide you with the best representation available. We don’t charge anything upfront and you only pay us when you get paid. Contact us for a free evaluation of your wrongful death case or call our Charleston office at (304) 342-0512.