Wrongful death is a legal claim that can be made when an individual’s death occurs as a result of another party’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. The Code of Virginia describes “Death by a Wrongful Act,” reading in part, “Whenever the death of a person shall be caused by the wrongful act, or default of any person or corporation, or of any ship or vessel…” Essentially, if a person’s specific action, inaction, or failure to act appropriately causes the death of another person, it could be the basis of a wrongful death case.

A death by wrongful act can be the result of a fatal traffic or travel accident, a defective product, a premises or slip-and-fall incident, or of other events involving negligence or failure to observe safety precautions. When the action or misconduct leading to the death is that of  a doctor, dentist (dental wrongful death), surgeon, or other healthcare professional, wrongful death cases are similar to medical malpractice cases.

Wrongful Death Claims in Virginia

In wrongful death cases, it is crucial to be aware of the deadline to bring the claim, known as the the statute of limitations.  Virginia’s statute of limitations requires that a legal claim for wrongful death must be filed within two years from the date of the deceased person’s death. Failing to meet this deadline may result in the forfeiture of your right to seek compensation.

Of course, there are also other deadlines and requirements once a case is filed. In Virginia, as in other jurisdictions, once a wrongful death claim is filed, you must prove certain elements to prevail.

You must prove through evidence that the death was caused by the defendant’s wrongful act, neglect, or default. You must also show how surviving family members have suffered quantifiable damages as a result of the death.

Recoverable Damages in Wrongful Death Cases

Damages commonly suffered by surviving members include finite expenses, such as medical expenses, costs of burial and funeral expenses. It also can include loss of financial support. Loss of financial support is especially important if the decedent provided for dependents and would have continued doing so for a substantial time. Another category that can be considered is loss of companionship and consortium of the decedent. This relates to the loss of affection and intimacy in a personal relationship. Emotional pain and suffering is another area of compensation in wrongful death claims.

How do you calculate such losses?  It is essential to consult an attorney experienced in wrongful death cases to understand the specific requirements and build a strong legal case.

In summary, in Virginia, eligible family members can pursue compensation for various damages, including:

  • funeral and burial expenses,
  • medical bills specifically related to the death,
  • loss of income of the decedent, including future earnings,
  • loss of companionship, and consortium,
  • emotional pain and suffering.

In the rare case of “willful or wanton conduct, or such recklessness as evinces a conscious disregard for the safety of others,” punitive damages may be recoverable as well.

Factors in Determining Wrongful Death Damages

A number of factors are at play in determining the amount of damages a claimant has suffered. In the case of a wrongful death, these include:

  • the deceased person’s age at the time of his or her death,
  • the life expectancy of the deceased (based on published tables),
  • the occupation and earnings history of the deceased,
  • the future earning potential of the deceased,  and
  • the impact of the loss on the surviving family members.

There can be other factors, and the calculations can be extremely complex. This makes it important that you find experienced professionals to guide your claim.

Building a Strong Case

We know that losing a loved one due to wrongful death can be devastating. The legal complexities and timing involved with such cases add to the emotional burden. The thought of pursuing justice may seem overwhelming. The two year limit to file can pass surprisingly quickly after such an event.

However, to build a strong case in wrongful death matters, it is essential to take certain actions during this already difficult time. A plaintiff must arrange to gather critical evidence, including medical records, accident reports, the death certificate and possibly other documents during this time. It may also be advisable to request a complete autopsy as soon as possible, and to obtain the full report. This is why it is important to consult an experienced legal team to help you with filing a wrongful death claim.

Wrongful Death Attorneys in Virginia

A Virginia attorney experienced in wrongful death cases, like those at Wallace Wason, PLLC, can help you navigate this process. We can assist you in obtaining the proper documents, identify medical experts to evaluate the case and then move ahead with litigation if that is the chosen course. Our bread and butter work is preparing clients’ cases for settlement or trial, pursuing the most advantageous resolution.

Losing a loved one due to the negligence or wrongful actions of others is a heart-wrenching experience.  No family should need to figure out alone how or whether to pursue justice. The compassionate team at Wallace Wason, PLLC is here to provide support and guidance in this process. We understand the profound impact a wrongful death can have on your emotional well-being and your financial stability. With our extensive knowledge of Virginia’s wrongful death laws and our relentless commitment to pursuing our clients’ interests, we will fight tirelessly to hold the responsible parties accountable and seek the compensation you deserve. Our goal is to provide you with the compassionate representation and closure you need to move forward.

If Wallace Wason, PLLC represents you in a wrongful death matter, we will help you make a serious recovery for your serious loss.

Contact us today for a compassionate consultation and let us help you navigate the legal process with care and dedication.

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