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The Role of Negligence in Wrongful Death Claims

May 16, 2023

Negligence is a recurring and crucial part of the wrongful death conversation. It is not only important to understand what negligence means legally but also its role and implications on case outcomes. Charleston wrongful death attorneys from Salango Law want to ensure that clients are well informed and confident before heading into a wrongful death case. 

Negligence: Defined and in Context

Despite its common use in everyday conversation, “negligence” is actually a commonly-used legal term that has serious implications in the American legal system. 

Within the context of law, negligence is defined as a “failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” In normal terms, this means that people are expected to behave within the confines of what would be considered “normal” and “reasonable” in a given situation. Likewise, there are some situations in which individuals do not act within these expectations and inflict harm upon another. 

How Negligence Can Be a Deciding Factor in a Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death claims are the result of an act of recklessness or negligence by one party that leads to the death of another. Therefore, negligence is an integral part of wrongful death claims, so much so that its presence is often the deciding factor in determining whether a party is responsible for someone’s death. 

One example of negligence in play within a wrongful death claim is the case of Mallory Beach in Hampton County, South Carolina. Beach and her friends went partying on a boat in 2019, operating the vessel under the influence of alcohol. After a rowdy night, Beach was thrown from the boat and killed following a period of reckless operation at the hands of Paul Murdaugh, who was heavily intoxicated. 

The prosecution pushing the wrongful death claim say that Parker’s Kitchen, a convenience store where the underage teens bought the alcohol from, is responsible for the intoxication of Murdaugh and the subsequent death of Beach after knowingly selling alcohol to minors. Although this was met with harsh criticism by the defendants, it is a noteworthy factor in the wrongful death suit. Should Parker’s Kitchen be found negligent in the screening process to determine if the purchasers were underage, they could be found liable for Beach’s death. 

Comparative Negligence in West Virginia

A noteworthy caveat to the discussion of negligence’s role in wrongful death cases is comparative negligence. Comparative negligence basically means that one or more parties can be found at partial fault for an accident. This translates to situations in which one party has only a small percentage of fault and does not have to pay the entire sum of damages that a plaintiff is awarded after a trial. 

West Virginia is a comparative negligent state, meaning that parties may be able to prove that they are not entirely at fault for an accident that has occurred. Furthermore, if someone in the state of West Virginia is found to be over 50% or more at fault for an accident, they are not able to recover compensation for the accident. 

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Charleston, WV

To learn more about negligence and how to file a wrongful death claim, reach out to experienced and passionate West Virginia wrongful death attorneys from Salango Law today. We offer free consultations and are available online through this link or over the phone at (304) 342-0512.