When a loved one dies before their time, many things very often have already gone wrong. Such a tragedy does not always come from just one careless or abusive person getting behind the wheel of a car or working with patients at their workplace. There is often more to the story.
Unlike criminal trials against lawbreakers, lawsuits for wrongful death often look at the much wider picture of what went wrong, what is truly responsible for the death and who might have prevented the loss if they had done their duty.
Holding people accountable for their actions
In West Virginia, filing a wrongful death lawsuit against someone responsible for the death could hold them accountable even in cases where a criminal trial is unlikely to or has already failed to do so.
In West Virginia cases recently in the news, families have sued the state’s Bureau of Prisons for failing to keep a famous prisoner out of the general population, alleging the decisions resulted in his murder by fellow inmates.
Among other possible benefits of such lawsuits, a large award might encourage the Bureau of Prisons to make prisoners safer and take greater precautions.
Showing fault for the death
A successful suit must show that the person or organization sued has caused the loved one’s death through improper behavior or through negligence (a failure to live up to the duty to take care not to harm others). The death must have been preventable had it not been for this negligence or impropriety.
The standard of proof for a successful wrongful death lawsuit is lower than the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of criminal cases.
In fact, people often file wrongful death lawsuits against an individual after the law already criminally tries them for causing someone’s death. In West Virginia as well as in many other states, the verdict against the accused in the criminal trial does not have to be “guilty” for the wrongful death lawsuit to succeed