Wrongful Death

Virginia Wrongful Death Law: How to Bring & Win a Lawsuit

Losing a loved one is hard enough without feeling like someone’s to blame. When you’re sure another person is at fault, it makes you want to do something. You want to act—hold them responsible. Sometimes you can. If there’s evidence the other person involved acted carelessly or malicious—or failed to act when they should have—the law might give your family a legal claim. It’s best to talk with a Richmond wrongful death attorney about the possibilities. Our team at River Run Law is ready to listen to your story. Once we get to the heart of the matter, we can advise you and your family on what you could do next. We make sure you’re informed so you can make the right decision for your family.  Does Your Family Have a Valid Claim? The Virginia wrongful death statute dictates when surviving relatives have a legal claim. Under the Code of Virginia § 8.01-50, if a person’s death is caused by another individual’s or business’s wrongful act, neglect, or default (failure to act), and if that incident would’ve given the person a legal claim had they lived, then the individual or business can be for liable damages. A quick way to think about it is to ask yourself: Would my relative have had a personal injury claim if they lived? If so, then your family may have a wrongful death claim. Common Fatal Accidents We often represent families after deadly: Car accidents, Motorcycle accidents, Truck accidents, Pedestrian accidents, Dangerous property accidents (premises liability), and Workplace accidents. Whatever type of incident caused your loved one’s death, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to answer your questions about what to do next. The Lawsuit Is About You It’s important to distinguish between a survival claim and a wrongful death claim. A survival claim is a legal claim your loved one had that survived their death. If they didn’t pass away immediately, then they incurred damages that could be recovered in a personal injury claim. Compensation in a survival claim is about what your relative suffered. A wrongful death claim is about what you and your other relatives are suffering. It’s about your financial and emotional injuries. Can You File the Lawsuit? We highly recommend you talk with a lawyer before pursuing a wrongful death claim. You have to follow the legal process correctly; otherwise, you’ll waste time and money. Not just any family member can file this lawsuit. The personal representative of the decedent’s estate has to do it on behalf of loved ones. If you lost your spouse, parent, or child, the personal representative might be you. Or the will or probate court might have named another relative or attorney the representative.   Because only one person can file the lawsuit, it’s important to talk with your relatives. You want to be on the same page about whether to move forward with a legal claim. If you believe in filing a claim, but the personal representative refuses, give us a call to talk through your options. How to File a VA Wrongful Death Lawsuit It’s best to have a lawyer handle filing the lawsuit. First, our team thoroughly investigates the fatal accident. If you have any hope of winning compensation, you need proof of the other party’s liability. Gathering and evaluating evidence is a crucial step. When we’re ready to file, we’ll draft the complaint, which is the paperwork that states what your legal claim is, who it’s against, and your damages. We’ll determine the right place to file a lawsuit, which may be the county where your loved one lived. You can’t file just anywhere. You have to bring a case in a court with jurisdiction over the matter. The next step is serving any person or business we named as a defendant. They have to receive formal notice of the complaint. Then, they have a chance to respond. From there, your case moves forward in earnest.  What Happens After You File? Each side gets to use discovery to learn more. Discovery is the process of exchanging information through several legal tools, like depositions, interrogatories (questions), admissions, and requests for the production of documents. Throughout this process, we continue to prepare for trial, whether or not we think a settlement is likely.  What to Expect from the Lawsuit Code of Virginia § 8.01-52 says a jury or court can award damages that are fair and just and may include compensation for: Your sorrow and mental anguish over losing your loved one’s society, companionship, comfort, guidance, and advice; Compensation for the loss of the decedent’s income, services, protection, care, and assistance; Medical expenses for the injuries that led to the decedent’s death; Reasonable funeral expenses; and Punitive damages if the at-fault party is guilty of willful or wanton conduct or recklessness that displays a conscious disregard for the safety of others. The compensation you receive under three and four are apportioned among the creditors who provided medical, burial, and funeral services or those who paid the expenses on the deceased person’s behalf. It doesn’t get spread out between the surviving family members. Who Receives Compensation Virginia’s wrongful death law defines who gets compensation from a settlement or court award. The damages are usually distributed among the surviving spouse, children, and grandchildren from any deceased child. But it gets a bit more complicated. Parents may receive a part of the award if, during the previous 12 months, the decedent provided them with financial support or services for necessities. If there are no spouse, children, or grandchildren, then the compensation is awarded to the parents and siblings or any other relative dependent on the decedent. If the decedent left behind a spouse and parent(s), but no children or grandchildren, then the spouse and parent(s) divide the award. If your lawsuit goes to trial and a jury decides, it also specifies beneficiaries and distribution of the damages. But first, funds go to the personal representative responsible for paying court costs, attorney fees, and certain creditors. […]

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Wrongful Death

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia?

If you have lost a loved one due to the wrongful actions of another, you may have a valid wrongful death claim. However, not all people can bring such a claim under Virginia law. Thus, it is important to know who can bring a wrongful death claim in Virginia.  In this article, we will discuss what constitutes a wrongful death and who can bring a claim. In doing so, we hope to provide you with valuable information as you work through the death of your loved one.  Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences you will go through in life. But know that there are things you can do to help you recover.  The wrongful death lawyers at River Run Law want to help. Read on for more information about wrongful death claims in Virginia, and contact our team to see what we can do to help you recover.  What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?  Under Virginia law, a wrongful death occurs where someone’s death is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of a person or corporation. Virginia law further states that a wrongful death claim is proper if the injured party would have been entitled to bring a personal injury action had he or she survived.  However, because the injured party has died, a wrongful death action provides a right of recovery and a way to hold accountable the party responsible for the death.  Now that you have an idea of what exactly a wrongful death action is, let’s go into more detail on who can bring a wrongful death claim in Virginia.  In Virginia, Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim? Only certain family members may benefit from a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased. Virginia law refers to these family members as “statutory beneficiaries” under Virginia wrongful death law.  Virginia Code section 8.01-53 details the family members who can benefit from a wrongful death claim and in what order they are permitted to do so. The statutory beneficiaries who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit include:  The surviving spouse of the deceased;  Any children or grandchildren of the deceased;  Surviving parents and siblings or any relatives who share the deceased’s household; and Any other surviving family member who is entitled to inherit the deceased’s estate under Virginia intestacy laws.  The surviving spouse has the first priority when it comes to filing a wrongful death lawsuit. However, if there is no surviving spouse, the next claim of right belongs to the child(ren) of the deceased. Then, if the decedent had no surviving spouse or children, the parents, siblings, and other surviving family members of the decedent hold the next claim of right to file a wrongful death suit. While these statutory beneficiaries are the ones who will recover compensation in a wrongful death action, Virginia law requires that the personal representative of the estate bring the lawsuit. The decedent will typically name their personal representative through his or her will. Alternatively, however, a judge can name a personal representative who will bring the lawsuit.  What Do I Need To Prove A Wrongful Death Claim? Code of Virginia section 8.01-50 addresses the requirements for filing a wrongful death claim in Virginia. Under Virginia wrongful death law, you must be able to prove that: A person died because of the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another; If the deceased had not died, they would have been entitled to bring a personal injury claim caused by another’s negligence; and The resulting death would not have happened but for the wrongful act or negligence of another party. These elements can often be difficult to prove. However, that does not mean recovery is impossible by any means. At River Run Law, we know what it takes to prove a wrongful death case, and we will fight to do just that.   What Can I Recover in a Virginia Wrongful Death Lawsuit One of the benefits of a Virginia wrongful death lawsuit is the ability to recover monetary compensation in the aftermath of losing your loved one. This compensation is referred to as your legal “damages.”  While no amount of compensation can bring your loved one back to you, these damages can be extremely helpful to you in recovering from their loss.   Examples of damages for which you can recover in a wrongful death action in Virginia include compensation for: Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace;  Loss of income of the decedent,  Loss of services, protection, care, and assistance provided by the decedent; Expenses for the care, treatment, and hospitalization of the decedent related to the injury that resulted in their death; and  Reasonable funeral expenses.  Additionally, in some cases you may be entitled to “punitive” damages. Virginia courts may award punitive damages in rare circumstances to account for willful, wanton, or reckless conduct that “evinces a conscious disregard for the safety of others.” Calculating the amount of damages you are entitled to in a wrongful death case can be extremely complicated. The total sum will often be determined by a number of factors that can be difficult to ascertain and prove.  If you have questions about how much you may be entitled to recover, contact an attorney to discuss your case in more detail. Consult A Virginia Wrongful Death Attorney Today If you have lost a family member at the hands of someone’s wrongful or negligent actions, it is time to fight for the justice your loved one deserves. A wrongful death lawyer can help you do just that.  An experienced Virginia wrongful death attorney can help you assess your claims, determine the strength of your case, and fight to hold the responsible party accountable and get you the compensation you need and deserve. To discuss your case with an experienced wrongful death attorney, contact River Run Law today. We offer a no-cost, no-obligation consultation to review your case and get you the legal assistance you need. You will never owe us any legal fees unless and […]

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