What is the Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in West Virginia?

Wrongful Death

By Jeffrey Robinette, West Virginia Trial Lawyer

West Virginia law provides that wrongful death lawsuits must be filed in court within two years from the date of death of the deceased family member.   This means that the personal representative of the decedent must carefully chose a qualified personal injury lawyer to represent the estate and pursue legal action against the wrongdoers, and their insurance companies, who are responsible for the estate’s damages and losses. 

Statute of Limitations in WV for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

Unless it can be proved that a responsible party committed fraud by hiding evidence or their identity, if you do not file a lawsuit within the two-year statute of limitations period, the estate’s wrongful death claim will be forever barred.  

This means that the estate and its beneficiaries will collect nothing for their losses.     

If legal counsel is consulted soon after the tragic loss occurs -- within days or weeks of the tragic loss -- many wrongful death cases can be settled without having to file a formal lawsuit against the wrongdoers.   So, you should not delay your consultation with a personal injury lawyer.  

Remember, you cannot consult legal counsel too early.   The earlier you consult legal counsel, the better chance your lawyer will have in getting the best recovery for your case.    Where an early settlement is obtained, there still will be a need to have the court oversee and approve the distribution of the settlement proceeds to those beneficiaries mentioned previously.   In fact, the court will even appoint a separate lawyer to protect the rights of minor children, where they are involved.

Insights from an Experienced WV Wrongful Death Attorney

Two years may sound like a long time from now.   But it is not, when considering all the things that must be done to secure your legal rights against the responsible parties.  In fact, some states even allow three years to file a lawsuit, but as stated previously, not in West Virginia -- two years is the limit.  Every day that you wait to seek legal counsel equates to a loss of opportunity to obtain full compensation for your injuries

In reality, it is the first 30 days following the fatal injuries to your deceased family member that are most critical to your case.   

It is within this relatively short time period that initial inspections should be completed and necessary evidence and testimony secured.  

It is always best if a lawyer is consulted within the first few days following the tragic event, because certain evidence won’t last even 30 days.   If you wait too long to develop your wrongful death claim, it will make the job of even a good lawyer more difficult to obtain a full recovery for the estate. 

Be advised, if the personal representative waits to consult a lawyer for the estate until a few months before the expiration of the two-year statute of limitations period, it is almost guaranteed that the estate’s wrongful death claim will be already compromised in some manner. 

So, don’t wait to get the estate’s wrongful death claim reviewed by a qualified lawyer – your family’s right to compensation depends on it.

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