Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia
While many people are lucky enough to walk away from their accidents with only minor injuries, most are not so lucky and in some tragic cases may even lose their lives as a result of their injuries. In these cases, it is possible for the surviving relatives of the deceased to file a claim against the at-fault party who caused their loved one’s untimely death. Known as wrongful death claims, these types of lawsuits can help the grieving relatives of accident victims pay off mounting medical debt and funeral expenses, while also obtaining compensation for other accident-related losses.
Pursuing these types of claims does, however, tend to be difficult, as they require compliance with a host of complex legal rules, so if you recently lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence and you have questions about holding that person accountable, it is important to contact an experienced Prince Edward County wrongful death lawyer who can evaluate your case and advise you throughout the legal process.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under Virginia law, a wrongful death is any death that is the result of someone else’s wrongful act, neglect, or default, if that conduct would have supported a personal injury claim if the decedent had not passed away. However, these claims can only be filed by the personal representative of the Estate of the deceased. Potential statutory beneficiaries, include:
- The surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren of the deceased;
- The surviving parents or siblings of the decedent;
- Any relative who shared a household with and is a dependent of the deceased; and
- Any surviving family member who would be entitled to inherit the decedent’s estate under Virginia law.
In Virginia, the right to receive benefits in a wrongful death claim also follows a specific order. For instance, surviving spouses and children have the initial right to file a lawsuit through the personal representative. If, however, the decedent doesn’t leave behind a surviving spouse, child, or grandchild, the decedent’s surviving parents, siblings, and dependents can file a claim through the personal representative. In the event that a decedent doesn’t have any surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, or siblings, the beneficiaries would belong to any family members who would otherwise inherit under state law, including aunts and uncles, cousins, and nieces and nephews.
What Damages are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?
Plaintiffs who can successfully prove that a loved one’s death was the result of someone else’s negligence could be entitled to damages compensating them for:
- Sorrow and mental anguish;
- The loss of the decedent’s care, comfort, companionship, and guidance;
- The value of lost wages and benefits, including future income;
- Medical bills related to the decedent’s final injury or illness;
- Funeral and burial expenses; and
- Punitive damages, which are available in cases where a defendant’s actions were especially egregious or careless.
Collecting these damages, however, is only possible if a wrongful death suit is filed before the expiration of the statute of limitations. In Virginia, this deadline is two years, so plaintiffs who file after this period of time has passed can almost always expect that their case will be dismissed by the court.
Call Today to Speak with an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you recently lost a loved one in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence or unlawful conduct, please call 434-969-4873 to speak with dedicated Prince Edward wrongful death lawyer Herbert E. Maxey, Jr. about holding the at-fault party accountable.