When someone dies as the result of another party’s “wrongful act, neglect, or default,” Virginia law considers their death a “wrongful death.” Certain survivors can seek compensation after losing their loved ones to wrongful death. Common causes of wrongful deaths in Virginia include fatal motor vehicle crashes, medical malpractice, and other deadly accidents caused by negligence.
If the circumstances surrounding the fatal incident would have allowed the victim to file a personal injury claim had they survived, family members might have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased. However, restrictions govern who is eligible and who has priority to file a wrongful death claim in Virginia.
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim
Virginia law specifies the order of surviving family member’s right to file a wrongful death claim. A personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death claim in the following order:
- Spouses and children of the deceased have first priority. If there is a surviving spouse but no children or grandchildren, surviving parents also have the right to file a claim along with the surviving spouse.
- If there is no surviving spouse or child, surviving grandchildren have the next priority.
- If there is no surviving spouse, child, or grandchild, priority falls to surviving parents, siblings, and other family members living in the same household as the deceased.
- If there is no surviving spouse, child, grandchild, or parent, any other family members entitled to inherit under state intestacy laws can file.
Who Might Be Responsible?
Depending on the circumstances of a wrongful death, any of the following parties might be held partially or fully responsible:
- Road users – Car drivers, truck drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians whose negligence caused a fatal accident could be held liable for wrongful death.
- Medical professionals – Doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, medical assistants, or other healthcare professionals can be responsible for deadly malpractice.
- Employers – If an employee causes a fatal accident while performing work-related duties, their employer might be liable by proxy.
- Property owners – Negligent property owners who fail to keep their premises safe or warn visitors of potentially fatal hazards might be held responsible for resulting deaths.
- Product manufacturers – Negligent manufacturers who knowingly distribute unsafe and potentially deadly products to consumers could be held liable in a wrongful death claim.
- Government agencies – A local or state government agency might be liable if the negligence of a government employee or agency caused a fatal accident.
What Types of Compensation Might Be Available?
With a successful wrongful death claim, beneficiaries of the estate of the deceased may be entitled to compensation for:
- Medical bills for any treatment the deceased received related to the fatal injury prior to their death
- The pain and suffering endured by the deceased
- The sorrow and mental anguish suffered by survivors due to the wrongful death
- Surviving family members’ loss of the deceased’s services, protection, care, assistance, comfort, guidance, and advice
- Surviving family members’ loss of the income and other benefits the deceased would have provided had they lived
- Reasonable funeral, crematory, or burial expenses
Contact a Virginia Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you’re considering a wrongful death claim in Virginia, you need an experienced and compassionate attorney to help you through this difficult time.
When you contact the Virginia wrongful death lawyers at Law Office of Steven D. Barnette, P.C., our team can start work immediately to pursue accountability and a measure of justice for your loved one. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help in a free initial case evaluation.