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Understanding Virginia’s Wrongful Death Statute


Death is an inevitable part of life, but it should never be hastened by someone else’s negligence. In Virginia, there are certain actions that a family may take in order to hold negligent parties accountable for the wrongful death of a loved one. However, there are certain restrictions regarding who can file a lawsuit, what kind of damages are recoverable, and how long a person has to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you plan on taking legal action for a wrongful death, it is important to understand the stipulations and limitations of the Virginia wrongful death statute.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Virginia?

Virginia Code Section 8.01-53 provides a detailed list of who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, and in what order. The surviving spouse is given first priority, but if there is no surviving spouse, the next right of claim belongs to the children. If the decedent did not leave behind a surviving spouse or children, the parents of the decedent would be the next in line, as well as siblings and dependent relatives. This process ensures that the correct beneficiary has a chance to recover on behalf of their loved one.

What Kind of Damages Are Available?

The recoverable damages in a wrongful death lawsuit vary and often depend on a variety of factors. These are listed under Virginia Code Section 8.01-52. Whether through jury verdict or settlement, there are circumstances that can alter what is considered recoverable.

For instance, if the filing party is a surviving spouse, the damages may include compensation for loss of companionship, support, and guidance. Some of the other potential recoverable damages include compensation for medical expenses if the decedent required treatment from the date of the incident until the death, as well as any loss of reasonably anticipated income as a result of the death. Families may also seek compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and funeral and burial expenses. In situations where a death was the result of willful or wanton conduct, punitive damages may also be sought by the family of the decedent.

Statute of Limitations

Each state has a statute of limitations that limits the amount of time a party has to file a lawsuit against a negligent party. This limit varies based on the situation and the type of case. For wrongful death matters in the state of Virginia, the filing party has two years from the date of the death to bring forth a lawsuit. Note that this is from the date of the death, not the date of the incident. Families may forfeit their right to legal action if they attempt to bring a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired.

Common Incidents That Lead to Wrongful Death

There are a number of situations that can lead to a preventable death, including car crashes, motorcycle collisions, trucking accidents, medical malpractice events, and more. Wrongful death cases require the filing party to show that there was a duty of care involved and that the duty of care was breached, leading to the fatal injuries. Proving this can be difficult, which is why it is so important to have legal representation on your side to build the strongest possible case.

Washington D.C. Wrongful Death Attorneys Serving Virginia

When dealing with the aftermath of a wrongful death, it can be difficult to keep a level head and focus on legal matters. However, holding the negligent party or parties financially accountable is important. While nothing can undo the damage that has been done to your family, our Washington D.C.-based wrongful death lawyers aim to help you with your Virginia wrongful death statute and obtain compensation to offset the financial aspect of your loss. If you lost a loved one due to negligence, we stand ready to help you pursue justice.

Call The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D & Associates today.

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