In West Virginia and all other jurisdictions, the system of collecting monetary damages from a vehicular accident is based on whether someone else was negligent in causing the claimant's injury or death. If someone's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the victim's injuries or death, a claim for personal injury or wrongful death damages will likely exist. Sometimes, there can be more than one person who is negligent in causing damages, and in that event, the tortfeasors will each be responsible for compensating the victim.
In the case of a victim's death from an accident, the claimant will be the estate of the decedent. That usually means the spouse, parents or other next of kin. For example, a two-car fatal crash on Frame Road in Elkview, West Virginia recently resulted in the death of a 46-year-old man, who was one of two operators of vehicles in the incident. The decedent was driving on his side of Frame Road when a car traveling in the opposite direction crossed the center line and crashed into his car.
A preliminary Fire Department report indicates that there was one man in each car. Both drivers were trapped in the rubble that was left of their vehicles after the violent impact. One driver died on arrival at the hospital. The man who reportedly crossed the center line and caused the crash is apparently in the hospital with critical injuries.
The family of the deceased victim is entitled to open an estate in the county courthouse and pursue a wrongful death claim for damages. It appears improbable that the at-fault driver can make a tort claim for personal injury damages. In many death cases with a strong case of liability against the other driver, the estate will, with the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney, likely succeed in obtaining the limits of liability insurance carried by the tortfeasor. When that amount is not sufficient to fully compensate for all of the several substantial elements of the damages claim, the estate will look to the decedent's own policy and/or the policies of other residents of the decedent's household, to determine the amount of underinsured motorists' coverage that may be available to supplement any recovery from the other driver.
Source: wsaz.com, "UPDATE: Names released in Kanawha County fatal car accident", March 12, 2017