Morgantown, WV asked in Wrongful Death for West Virginia

Q: With a wrongful death settlement, can it be fought if it isn't split even between siblings?

My mom is about to receive a "wrongful death" settlement for the death of my grandmother. My grandmother was also already going through the process of sueing before she passed. My grandmother did not have a written will, but my mom was her medical power of attorney. My grandmother also had verbally told my mother before she passed, that she didn't want one of my uncle's to see a dime of the money. With eye witnesses in the room. Can my moms brother fight this? (I am asking for my mother.)

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: Yes, he can fight to receive a share of the wrongful death settlement. Whether he is successful depends on the facts, particularly the nature of his relationship with your grandmother. In West Virginia, a judge must approve the amount of a wrongful death settlement, the amount of the attorney's fee, and the distribution of the settlement to those who are entitled to make a claim to a portion of the settlement. The wrongful statute in West Virginia states:

"In every such action for wrongful death, the jury, or in a case tried without a jury, the court, may award such damages as to it may seem fair and just, and, may direct in what proportions the damages shall be distributed to the surviving spouse and children, including adopted children and stepchildren, brothers, sisters, parents and any persons who were financially dependent upon the decedent at the time of his or her death or would otherwise be equitably entitled to share in such distribution."

It will be up to judge to determine if your uncle receives anything, and it largely depends on the loss of the relationship suffered by your uncle. If he cannot show that he suffered a loss from the death of his mother, the judge can award him nothing. The conversation between your grandmother and uncle might be considered by the judge in determining what your uncle receives.

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