It is difficult to imagine losing a family member in an accident that takes their life well before their natural time. Yet this is a reality that many people grapple with throughout our state – a result of the negligence or recklessness of others. If you are the spouse, child, or parent of a loved one who was killed due to someone else’s fault, you may have a cause of action to file a wrongful death claim. At the Law Office of Steven D. Barnette, P.C., our Virginia wrongful death lawyers serving Gloucester, Hampton, Newport News, and Essex can help you. We know how devastating losing a loved one is and how desperately you deserve to be compensated. Let us help you fight for justice and recover the compensation you deserve.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
As found in the Code of Virginia Section 8.01-50, an action for wrongful death is allowable when the death of a person is caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of any person or party and, had death not ensued, the victim would have had standing to bring forth a personal injury claim for damages. Types of accidents that may result in wrongful death actions include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Bicycle and motorcycle accidents
- Dangerous premises and negligent security accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip and falls
- Dangerous and defective products
- Dangerous pharmaceuticals
- Boating and water-related accidents
- Medical malpractice and
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Also found in the Code of Virginia, cited above, is an explanation of who can bring forth a wrongful death action when a loved one dies. According to the statute, only the personal representative of the decedent–which may be named in the deceased’s will–can file a wrongful death action. However, while the personal representative is the only party who can bring forth the action, the action can be brought forth for the benefit of beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate, such as children and a spouse.
What Do I Have to Prove in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The elements of a wrongful death claim that a plaintiff will need to prove are very similar to that of a personal injury claim. To be sure, a plaintiff will need to prove that the defendant owed the decedent a duty of care; that the duty of care was breached; that the breach was the proximate cause of death; and that the death resulted in damages.
Types of Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Action
The types and amounts of damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim include “such damages as to [the jury] may seem fair and just.” Damages that may be awarded in a wrongful death claim include, but are not limited to, compensation for sorrow and mental anguish; compensation for the loss of the decedent’s income and the loss of protection and care offered by the decedent; any medical expenses incurred by the decedent prior to death; reasonable funeral and burial expenses; and punitive damages if the death occurred as a result of the defendant’s willful or wanton conduct (these types of damages are designed to punish the defendant rather than compensate the plaintiff for actual losses suffered).
Act Quickly – You Only Have So Much Time to Bring Forth a Wrongful Death Claim
After a loved one is killed in an accident caused by someone else’s harm, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate maintains a wrongful death cause of action, but only for a limited amount of time. To be sure, Virginia code specifies that the personal representative of a decedent’s estate must bring forth a wrongful death suit within two years of the decedent’s death. Note that this does not mean two years from the date of accident that lead to fatal injuries, but rather from the date of death, which could be days or months after the accident. If you wait longer than two years from the date of death to file your claim, you will be permanently barred from recovery.
Call Our Virginia Wrongful Death Lawyers Today
Our law firm knows the feeling of grief and devastation that you’re experiencing after losing a loved one. We wish that we could change the past and give you your loved one back. While we can’t do this, we can work hard to get you a settlement that compensates you in full for your economic and noneconomic losses. To learn more about our legal services and how we can help you after the loss of a loved one, please call us directly today or send us a message online.