When a family member’s death is caused by someone else’s negligent or intentional act, you may have the right to file a wrongful death claim to pursue compensation for the losses your family is facing, such as the medical costs of treating your loved one’s fatal injury and the loss of a vital income. While no amount of money can undo your grievous loss, it can help ease the financial pressure you may be under and give you the time and space you need to heal.
However, when you decide to begin the process of seeking accountability through a wrongful death claim, who exactly will be responsible for paying the financial compensation you and your family are due?
Wrongful Death in Virginia
Virginia’s wrongful death statute defines wrongful death as the death of a person caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another party when that act would have entitled the decedent to pursue a claim for compensation had they not died. Wrongful death claims are often thought of as the claim that a deceased individual could have brought had they survived their injury. Instead, the claim is filed after their death to benefit their family members and heirs.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Some of the most frequently occurring accidents in Virginia that lead to wrongful death claims include:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
- Workplace accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Dangerous drugs
- Toxic exposure
Who Is Responsible?
The party or parties that can be held responsible for your loved one’s wrongful death may depend on the circumstances of their passing. For example, if your family member died in a motor vehicle accident, your family would normally hold the negligent or reckless motorist responsible to pay compensation to your family.
If the at-fault party was acting in the course and scope of their employment when they caused your loved one’s death, your family could also hold their employer responsible under a theory of vicarious liability. When dangerous or defective products were responsible for your loved one’s death, the manufacturers or retailers of those products can be held liable.
As a practical matter, most parties legally responsible for causing your family member’s passing will have insurance to cover their liability. Therefore, the insurance company will often be paying the compensation to you and your family in a wrongful death claim.
Who Can File a Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit in Virginia may only be filed by one of the “statutory beneficiaries” of the deceased person. State law defines statutory beneficiaries to include:
- A surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren
- Surviving parents
- Surviving siblings
- Any family member who lived in the decedent’s household and was financially dependent upon the decedent at the time of their death
- Any surviving family member entitled to inherit from the decedent’s estate under Virginia intestacy laws
Compensation for Wrongful Death
Compensation in a Virginia wrongful death claim may cover losses suffered by the decedent, the decedent’s estate, and the decedent’s surviving family members, including:
- Lost wages from the period between the decedent’s injury to the decedent’s death
- Lost expected future earnings and employment benefits, such as health insurance
- Medical expenses from the decedent’s last injury
- Conscious pain and suffering experienced by the decent prior to their death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Grief, sorrow, and emotional anguish experienced by surviving family members
- Loss of the decedent’s companionship, guidance, society, and care
When a person’s death is caused by intentional, wanton, or reckless conduct, the family of the decedent may also receive an award of punitive damages intended to punish the culpable party for their conduct.
Statute of Limitations in Virginia
Virginia’s statute of limitations on wrongful death claims requires you to file a lawsuit for your family’s claim within two years of your loved one’s death. If your family’s suit is not filed until after the limitations period expires, the case can be permanently dismissed from court, and you and your family can lose the right to seek compensation from those responsible for your family member’s death.
Contact Barney Injury Law
If your family has lost a loved one in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, contact Barney Injury Law for a free, no-obligation consultation with a knowledgeable Virginia Beach wrongful death attorney. Learn more about the process of pursuing the recovery and justice that you and your family deserve. Call us today at 757-965-7200 or contact us online.