What Constitutes a Wrongful Death in Virginia?

When a loved one dies, you are suddenly thrown into a world of grief, and you are trying hard to cope with the loss. And the suffering made worse when you know that death was caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless action. At CAIL Personal Injury Law Firm, we know that no amount of money can truly compensate you for losing a spouse, child, parent, or sibling. But we urge you to contact one of our compassionate and experienced personal injury attorneys to advise you on preparing and filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Once you manage to cope with grief and mental anguish, you will realize that you lost a loved person and their financial support. Plus, you have to recover from the funeral l expenses, as well as any medical bills you incurred as a result of your loved one’s hospitalization before the disease. However, by the time you may consider taking legal action against the responsible party, it may be too late. The wrongful death statute of limitations in the Commonwealth of Virginia is 2 (two) years after the deceased person’s passing.

What Represents a Wrongful Death Case in Virginia?

An experienced wrongful death attorney will evaluate your case in-depth to assess your eligibility to file a lawsuit in civil courts. One of the difficulties you may encounter is the pure comparative negligence rule applicable in Virginia. According to this legal principle, an accident victim must be 0% at fault for its occurrence to be eligible to receive compensation.

The application of this principle extends to wrongful deaths. This is one of the weapons insurance companies use against bereaved family members seeking a fair settlement. If the victim were involved in a motor vehicle accident (car accident, motorcycle accident, trucking accident, etc.) with the negligent party, the insurance adjusters would claim that they also bore a percentage of fault fatal accident.

An experienced attorney will help you understand your chances of success in wrongful death actions by investigating the circumstances that led to your loved one’s death.

Common Causes Leading to Wrongful Death Claims

An experienced wrongful death lawyer has seen many instances that led to a person’s death due to someone else’s actions or failure to act. The most common occurrences that lead to this devastating end are:

1. Motor Vehicle Accident

Car crashes are the most frequent cause of wrongful death. In 2019, 827 people lost their lives in a car accident. When one of the vehicles involved in an 18-wheeler or another type of large commercial vehicle, the collision has terrible consequences, involving several fatalities and severely injured persons.

2. Bicycle or Pedestrian Accident

Cyclists and pedestrians are extremely vulnerable on the road. They have no defense when they are hit by a speeding vehicle. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth of Virginia experiences an increasing number of pedestrian fatalities. Before 2016, there were around 80-100 pedestrian deaths per year. In 2018, 123 pedestrians died after being hit by a car, and in 2019 – 124.

3. Medical Malpractice

Doctors, nurses, EMTs, and other healthcare professionals sometimes act negligently, causing a patient’s death. Medical errors may include:

  • failure to properly diagnose a serious illness
  • surgery and anesthesia errors
  • fetal death caused by pregnancy monitoring that does not meet the standard of care
  • congenital disabilities due to negligent behavior by the assisting physician.

4. Workplace Accidents

The most serious workplace accidents occur on construction sites and in production facilities, where employees have to lift heavy loads, work at heights and operate heavy machinery. A wrongful death lawsuit could be brought against employers if one of their workers died as a result of:

  • failure to provide workers with adequate personal protection equipment
  • failure to signal a dangerous area and remedy it as soon as possible
  • failure to maintain and repair electrical devices and heavy machinery, making them dangerous to use
  • failure to provide workers with adequate training on work health and safety.

5. Products Liability

If a person dies due to using a defective or dangerous product, the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer may be liable to pay wrongful death compensation to the deceased person’s statutory beneficiaries. The law in the Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes three cases of product liability.”

  • defects of flaws in the design or occurring in the engineering process of the product
  • manufacturing errors or deviations from the design
  • improper labeling, unclear or incomplete instructions for use, failure to warn consumers of hidden dangers.

6. Premises Liability

Premises liability cases involve accidents occurring on a private, public or commercial property due to the owner’s or manager’s failure to remedy hazardous conditions, such as:

  • wet floors
  • potholes
  • broken stairs
  • loose floorboards.

The most frequent causes of premises liability involve slip and fall accidents. In some cases, the victim dies as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident. In this case, their personal representatives have the right to file for wrongful death settlements.

Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Virginia?

According to the Code of Virginia 8.01-53, the statutory beneficiaries of a decedent who are eligible to start a legal process to obtain damages for pain and financial losses are:

  • spouses
  • children and grandchildren
  • dependent relatives who lived in the decedent’s household
  • family members who are heirs to the decedent’s estate according to the laws of intestacy of Virginia.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether you qualify as a statutory beneficiary and guide you throughout the entire process.

Types of Damages You Are Entitled to Receive in a Wrongful Death Case

The Code of Virginia recognizes five types of damages that the relatives of wrongful death victims may obtain:

  1. Compensation for economic losses, such as loss of income, loss of services, protection, and care
  2. Compensation for pain and suffering: loss of companionship, loss of consortium, emotional pain and sorrow
  3. Compensation for medical expenses incurred for the care, treatment, and hospitalization of the victim before death
  4. Compensation for reasonable funeral expenses
  5. Punitive damages, if the responsible party caused the victim’s death due to reckless conduct, willful or wanton conduct.

The settlement amount will be distributed to the appropriate class of beneficiaries in the following order:

  • tier 1: spouse, children, and grandchildren; parents may qualify if they received financial assistance or services for at least 12 months before the date of death
  • tier 2: parents, irrespective of the existence of support services, siblings, other relatives who are dependent on the deceased person for support.

It is important to note that, irrespective of the jury verdict, there is a cap on the maximum compensation in medical malpractice wrongful death cases – $2,000,000. If you file a wrongful death lawsuit under worker’s compensation (for workplace accidents), you are not entitled to receive damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress.

We Are Here to Help You Find Justice in the Most Difficult Time!

The wrongful death lawyers at CAIL Personal Injury Law Firm treat each case with the same level of compassion, professionalism, and dedication. We are here to fight on your behalf and see justice served for your deceased loved one. Money will not replace their nurturing presence in your life, but it will help you adjust to living without them without the distress of financial hardships.

Remember that you have only two years after your loved one’s death to take legal action, so do not waste any time. Contact us for initial consultations, and let us prepare your case and represent you. Call now for a free case evaluation: 1-800-HURT-123!

 

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