There is no denying that the untimely death of a family member can be the hardest and most trying time of your life. The loss of a loved one can leave you and the other surviving family members in a state of emotional suffering. Unfortunately, this feeling can be intensified when the life of your loved one was taken in a senseless act of negligence or malpractice.
When negligent conduct occurs that causes the death of your loved one, it is considered wrongful death. Every state, including Virginia, has wrongful death laws that allow families to be financially compensated in order to recover damages for the loss of a loved one. For example, when a driver’s recklessness causes a fatal motor vehicle accident or an anesthesiologist makes a mistake and that results in a patient’s death, these incidents are considered negligent and families of those victims are therefore entitled to pursue wrongful death claims.
Although no amount of money will ever be enough to compensate you for the loss of your family member, it is important that you seek the compensation you are entitled to so that the burden of your deceased loved one isn’t made heavier by financial stresses.
Causes of Wrongful Death
- Car accidents. When cars overturn, high speeds are involved, or violent impacts occur, drivers and passengers in the cars involved can suffer fatal injuries. If a deadly crash was caused by a driver’s recklessness and negligence, families of victims can hold that driver responsible through a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Truck accidents. When a car and truck collide, the sheer size and weight of a large commercial vehicle can crush those in the smaller vehicle. If the truck driver failed to comply with the hours-of-service law, if the truck wasn’t maintained properly, or if the trucker or trucking company did something to cause the crash, they can be held liable through a wrongful death claim.
- Motorcycle accidents. It is known that motorcyclists are more vulnerable to injuries and fatalities due to their lack of protection on the road; however, when another driver’s carelessness and recklessness causes a fatal motorcycle crash, the victim’s family can hold the negligent driver accountable through a wrongful death suit.
- Pedestrian accidents. Sometimes motorists drive impaired, distracted, and downright negligent—leading them to not watch out for pedestrians. When cars collide with pedestrians, the results are often fatal. If a driver was responsible for a pedestrian’s death, the family of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the wrongdoer responsible.
- Slip and fall accidents. When properties aren’t maintained and unsafe conditions exist that cause people to slip and fall and suffer serious injuries that result in death, property owners can be held liable through wrongful death lawsuits.
- Medical malpractice. When doctors make diagnosis errors, surgical errors, medication mistakes, or other types of medical errors that lead to the death of a patient, they can be held accountable through a wrongful death claim.
Although there are many causes of wrongful death, the end result is still the same—innocent lives being taken from this earth too soon. This is why families who have lost loved ones due to another’s wrongful actions are entitled to pursue financial compensation for their losses.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Virginia?
When a child, mother, father, husband or wife passes away as a result of someone else’s negligence and recklessness, families have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit if they can prove they have suffered financially and/or emotionally. Here are the people who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Virginia against the wrongdoer:
- A Spouse. When a husband or wife is suddenly taken away by an act of negligence, the other spouse’s world is turned upside down. If the spouse who was killed was a breadwinner or stay at home mom, the family will feel a huge impact financially, emotionally, and in everyday life. In order to recover for some of the losses sustained as a result of the spouse’s death, the surviving spouse can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Children. When one or both parents die as a result of the negligence of another person, children will face emotional and financial hardships as they are used to being taken care of by their parents. This is why children have legal rights to seek justice through a wrongful death lawsuit in order to collect compensation for their losses and damages.
- Parents. When parents lose a child as a result of someone else’s wrongful actions, they can pursue a wrongful death suit. Even though children don’t earn wages, parents can still collect for the emotional trauma and medical and funeral expenses that resulted from their child’s death.
The Effects of Wrongful Death
It is downright devastating to lose a loved one, and the death of a family member can lead to an immense amount of heartache and sadness as well as other consequences, such as:
- Emotional trauma. When survivors lose a family member, they are impacted emotionally. This is why survivors can collect compensation for pain and suffering, or mental anguish.
- Financial difficulties. When the person who passes away is earning wages, the family should be compensated for those future lost wages and lost benefits, including pension and medical coverage. It is likely a victim would have worked until the age of retirement, which is why the surviving family members should be compensated for those anticipated earnings.
- Relationship losses. Families often suffer from loss of care, companionship, protection, comfort, guidance, and support when their loved one is taken from them too soon. This is why a wrongful death lawsuit could seek to obtain damages for these losses.
When a family loses a loved one due to another’s negligence, the family should be compensated to the fullest through both general and punitive damages. This is why it is important to hire an experienced wrongful death lawyer in order to make sure the maximum financial recovery is obtained.
Tips and Resources for Families Who Lose a Loved One in Virginia
When a loved one’s life is brought to an end too early, families are often unsure of what to do because they are in shock and are mourning the death of their loved one. Although it is normal to feel depressed or be in denial about the death of a family member, it is also essential that families know what steps to take in situations such as these in order to make sure they are protecting their financial future. For this reason, we have put together some helpful information, including:
- Why families who have suffered the untimely death of their loved one should seek legal advice. Insurance companies that represent drivers, doctors, or other individuals and companies want to save as much money as they can when paying out on claims—even wrongful death claims when they know their insured was at fault. This is why it is critical that you seek legal counsel in order to make sure you are getting justice and just compensation.
- What families should look for in a lawyer to handle their wrongful death claim. Not all attorneys are skilled in all areas of the law. For this reason, it is essential that you find a lawyer who has successfully settled and tried wrongful death cases. Also, an attorney you meet with should offer a free initial consultation, share his or her experience, and even offer to provide you with past case results and client testimonials.
- What families should know about the statute of limitations. In order to bring a claim against the wrongdoer, families of victims typically have two years to file wrongful death claims in Virginia. If a wrongful death claim isn’t filed within that window of time, you may be barred from ever pursuing this claim.
- What families need to know about the difference between wrongful death and survival action claims. When someone’s death is directly caused by negligence or malpractice, families of the deceased can file wrongful death claims. If the death later occurred due to negligence or malpractice, a survival action may be filed. With a survival action, the money awarded will go into the deceased person’s estate and be divided according to the person’s will; however, with a wrongful death settlement, the damages go directly to the family members and do not pass through the victim’s estate. The damages a family can recover are a little different between the two claims, which is why it is critical that you know which type of claim is best for you and your family to pursue.
If you and your family have experienced the loss of your loved one due to someone else’s negligence and you would like to know more about your rights and what types of damages you may be entitled to, we would be honored to talk with you and help you during this time. Please call our Fairfax personal injury law firm today for a complimentary consultation with a knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer at (703) 591-0067.