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Proving a wrongful death claim in West Virginia

If you’re among those in West Virginia who have recently received a phone call informing you that a loved one has suffered fatal injuries in a motor vehicle collision, condolences are extended to you. Processing the emotions and grief associated with such tragedies is beyond difficult, especially if the decedent was a child. Sadly, many fatal collisions are later determined to have been avoidable were it not for a driver’s negligence or reckless behavior. Immediate family members of decedents often file wrongful death claims to seek restitution.

When a person files a wrongful death claim, he or she becomes a plaintiff in a lawsuit. There may be one or more defendants listed in a claim. In any case, the plaintiff must convince the judge who is overseeing the case (or the jury, if applicable) that the defendant should be held financially accountable for damages associated with the incident.

What constitutes damage in a wrongful death claim?

The following list shows several examples of damages that you might list in a West Virginia wrongful death claim:

  • Emotional trauma
  • Loss of consortium
  • Physical injuries
  • Property damage
  • Economic distress

If a defendant’s negligence or misconduct has caused your loved one’s death, the court may rule in your favor so that the defendant is ordered to pay restitution. Compensation awarded in such cases often helps a victim’s family offset funeral costs and other expenses associated with the incident that resulted in a fatality.

Demonstrating evidence of negligence or misconduct

As a plaintiff in a wrongful death claim, you must show the court that the defendant owed a duty of care to your loved one (the decedent). For example, all motorists are obligated to adhere to traffic laws and safety regulations because they owe a duty of care to those with whom they share the road.

You must also provide evidence to convince the court (or jury) that the defendant acted with negligence or misconduct, thus failing to uphold the duty of care he or she owed the decedent at the time the collision took place. Finally, you must also prove that the defendant’s negligence, recklessness or malicious behavior was a direct cause of the victim’s death.

Evidence that helps substantiate a wrongful death claim

Plaintiffs in a West Virginia wrongful death claim may provide various types of evidence in court. For instance, photographs of the decedent’s injuries, photographs of the vehicles that were involved in the crash, as well as testimony from experts, such as physicians, forensics specialists and others.

This type of litigation is complex and stressful. It is emotionally distressing for family members to listen to details in an open courtroom regarding their loved one’s death. Most plaintiffs ask experienced personal injury litigators to act on their behalf throughout proceedings to help alleviate stress and to increase the chances of a favorable outcome.

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