Who is Permitted to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

There is nothing quite as difficult or distressing as having to say goodbye to a loved one. Many wrongful death claims are brought every year, which are claims that can help you compensate on behalf of losing a loved one to the reckless acts of another party. Every state has its own laws regarding your ability to file and bring a successful wrongful death claim. Today, we would like to focus on what is needed to bring one of these claims and who is able to bring a wrongful death claim.

Elements Needed in a Wrongful Death SuitWhite sedan damaged from head on collision

If you wish to bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of a loved one, here are some elements that you will have to show:

Negligence: You must be able to show negligence on behalf of another party, just like you would do in a regular personal injury case. This means showing that the defendant engaged in an act that was careless or otherwise reckless, and that this contributed to the death of your loved one. An example would be somebody who chose to drive while intoxicated and caused the death of your loved one. 

Breach of Duty: You have to also show that the defendant owed your loved one a duty of care but that they breached this duty and, as a result, it led to the death of your loved one.

Causation: You have to show that the specific breach of the driver’s duty was the direct cause of the death of your loved one. 

Damages: Lastly, you must be able to show that there were damages, which should not be difficult if you have lost a loved one due to another person’s negligence. Perhaps there are bills associated with your case that continue to pile up against you, which constitute the damages you would attempt to reclaim.

Who Can File?  

Now, for the most important part: who actually has the right to file a wrongful death claim? You might think that anybody who has been impacted by a loved one’s death can file a lawsuit. For instance, what if a long-lost neighbor of your loved one has been touched by their passing? This is not the case, however; only certain parties are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Here are just a few examples of who is eligible to file one of these claims: 

  • Immediate family members of the loved one, such as spouses, children, or related family members who were dependent on the loved one;
  • Financial dependents or life partners who have been recognized by the court;
  • Distant family members (on some occasions), such as grandparents who are raising a child who passes away due to an accident; and/or
  • Parents of a deceased newborn to recover emotional damages and losses.

As you can see, there are many elements that must be shown and many complexities that you might find along the way. As with many types of cases in the legal system, wrongful death suits are complicated and confusing at times, which is why you might need the experienced help of a personal injury attorney who understands what you are going through. If you have lost a loved one in a West Virginia car accident, please contact us as soon as possible at Katz, Kantor, Stonestreet & Buckner. We are waiting to hear from you, so give us a call at (304) 713-2014.


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