Emotional Effects of Wrongful Death

When someone you love is taken from you unexpectedly, you may be in such emotional agony that you feel like you are going through the absolute worst time in your life. You may even feel like you aren’t sure you can go on without your loved one. Rest assured knowing that these emotions following the death of a family member are normal. In fact, the mental and emotional effects of a wrongful death are significant.

What Is Emotional Distress?

When the death of a loved one occurs, it often causes emotional distress, or a state of emotional pain and mental suffering. In a wrongful death suit, this means that someone else’s wrongdoing or negligent actions have caused the family of the deceased to endure severe emotional suffering so that emotional damages should be considered and calculated.

Examples of Emotional Distress Caused from Wrongful Death

The following are examples of compensable emotional distress:

  • A surviving wife or husband may suffer from loneliness, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other severe emotions following the loss of a spouse. The loss of a companion and partner is unimaginable, which is why a surviving spouse needs to be compensated for his or her emotional distress. This is often referred to as “loss of consortium,” where a spouse loses the deceased’s companionship and love.
  • Surviving children may suffer lifelong emotional pain from growing up without a mother or father. This is why children should be able to collect for loss of guidance and support in a wrongful death claim. Also, emotional scarring can occur when a mom or dad isn’t able to be there for huge milestones, such as graduations, weddings, and childbirth.
  • Parents of a deceased minor child should be able to recover damages for their emotional trauma due to their lost relationship. However, parents of adult children generally find themselves unable to recover such damages.

Collecting Compensation for Emotional Trauma

When bringing a claim against the negligent party, emotional distress is often referred to as pain and suffering. And in a wrongful death lawsuit, those related to the deceased have a right to collect damages for the emotional and mental pain and suffering they have endured due to the loss of their loved one.

According to Virginia statute 8.01-52, a person can collect for fair and just emotional damages to include:

  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Sorrow
  • “Solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent”

Because emotional distress is grouped under non-economic damages, there aren’t specific bills that can establish exactly how much compensation a family should receive for their emotional and mental trauma. However, if family members suffer depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or another emotional condition and seek psychological and professional treatment, bills associated with such treatment should be reimbursed in addition to an overall award for emotional distress.

Our Attorneys Understand the Emotional Effects of Wrongful Death

Because insurance companies want to settle claims for as little money as possible, they often don’t want to assign a large dollar amount for emotional and mental trauma related to the claim. This is why it is critical to have an attorney in your corner who knows the wrongful death laws and understands the effects of losing a loved one.

At Shevlin Smith, we know how important it is to build a strong case to include emotional damages in order to help you obtain the maximum compensation available in a wrongful death claim. While we understand that no amount of money will ever be able to take away the emotional pain of losing a husband, wife, father, mother, son, or daughter, getting the most compensation will allow you to get the help you need in order to deal with your emotional and mental wounds.

We know this is not an easy time in your life and we want to help you make a full and fair recovery for your emotional and mental damages. For a complimentary consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney, please call our law firm at (703) 721-4233.


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