Recovery available following a loved one’s fatal car accident

Wrongful death is a powerful means of recovery following fatal motor vehicle accidents.

It is always an uneasy feeling knowing that you do not have full control of your own safety at all times. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than when you are behind the wheel. No matter how safely you drive, your safety is always partially in the hands of other drivers on the road. With more and more drivers engaging in distracting activities while behind the wheel, such as texting while driving, it can seem that the road is a very dangerous place indeed.

When a motor vehicle accident occurs, there can be several outcomes. For the fortunate, the collision only results in minor injuries. However, in some cases, the collision can be fatal. If a close loved one has been killed in a motor vehicle accident, you may suffer financial and emotional losses. As a result, you may wonder if there is a way to recoup these losses. Fortunately, such losses can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit in some cases.

Wrongful death overview

A wrongful death occurs when someone is killed because of someone else's negligence, wrongful act or default. Although wrongful death often occurs in motor vehicle accidents, it can also occur in cases of workplace accidents, violent crimes, medical malpractice and other deaths caused by carelessness or neglect. Although the party that was responsible for the death may also face criminal charges for his or her role in the death, these charges do not affect your ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit, as it is a separate civil proceeding.

In West Virginia, you as the aggrieved party, do not sue the responsible party directly. Instead, the wrongful death lawsuit is filed by the executor (also called personal representative) of the decedent's estate. Under the law, those that are financially dependent on the decedent are eligible to recover. As such, eligible parties most often include the spouse, parents and children of the decedent. However, anyone that is a financial dependent may recover. If the decedent did not have any dependents, any compensation recovered is distributed according to the terms of the will (or intestacy laws, if there was no will).

In the lawsuit, compensation for a wide variety of losses may be sought including:

• Loss of decedent's future income

• Medical, funeral and burial expenses

• Loss of emotional support or companionship of decedent

• Mental anguish or sorrow

• Punitive damages (in limited cases)

In many cases, recovering compensation can be a difficult battle, as negligence must be proven in order to establish liability. Because of this, it is vital to include the assistance of an experienced attorney as soon as possible after the accident. An attorney can work with accident experts to establish the true cause of the death, giving you the best chances of a successful recovery.