How Does Virginia Law Address Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

Losing a loved one due to the negligence or wrongful actions of another party is a profoundly devastating experience. In such tragic circumstances, surviving family members may seek justice and compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. The following is a brief overview of how Virginia law addresses these types of cases. For more detailed information about your situation, contact our office to speak with one of our Virginia Beach wrongful death attorneys.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Virginia?

Virginia law specifies who is eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Typically, the following parties may file a claim:

  • Personal representative: The personal representative of the deceased’s estate is the individual authorized by the court to act on behalf of the estate. This representative may be appointed in the deceased’s will or by the court. Their primary responsibility is to initiate and manage the lawsuit.
  • Immediate family members: Surviving spouses, children, and grandchildren (if the deceased’s children are deceased) are the first in line to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Virginia. If there are no surviving spouses, children, or grandchildren, other relatives may be eligible, such as parents or siblings, depending on the specific circumstances.

Types of Wrongful Death Damages

Virginia law allows for several types of damages in these cases. These damages are designed to compensate surviving family members for their losses and the suffering endured due to the victim’s death. Common types of damages include:

  • Economic damages: This category encompasses the financial losses incurred by the surviving family members due to the death. It may include medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, lost wages, and the value of services provided by the deceased.
  • Non-Economic damages: Non-economic damages address the emotional and intangible losses experienced by surviving family members. These losses may include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of companionship, guidance, or support.
  • Punitive damages: In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded as a form of punishment for particularly egregious or malicious conduct on the part of the defendant. Virginia law places a cap on punitive damages, limiting them to $350,000.

Statute of Limitations

Virginia law establishes a specific timeframe within which a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed. This timeframe is known as the statute of limitations. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is generally two years from the date of the deceased’s death. It’s crucial to initiate legal action within this timeframe to preserve your right to seek compensation.

Burden of Proof

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, meaning the party bringing the lawsuit. To succeed in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must establish the following elements:

  • The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased.
  • The defendant breached that duty of care through negligence or wrongful actions.
  • The breach of duty directly resulted in the deceased’s death.
  • The surviving family members suffered quantifiable damages as a result of the death.

Should You Hire an Attorney?

Navigating a wrongful death lawsuit can be complex, emotionally challenging, and legally intricate. It’s essential to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can guide you through the process, ensure that your rights are protected, and advocate on your behalf.

An attorney can:

  • Assess the merits of your case.
  • Identify liable parties and potential sources of compensation.
  • Gather evidence and build a strong legal strategy.
  • Navigate the legal process, including negotiations and trial, if necessary.
  • Pursue fair compensation for the losses and suffering endured by surviving family members.

Let Our Personal Injury Law Firm Help

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence or recklessness of another party, contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our seasoned Virginia Beach wrongful death attorneys. Our firm will work diligently to get you the financial justice your family deserves, like the $2 million insurance settlement we obtained for the estate of a man who was killed when he was hit by a car while crossing the street. For your convenience, we have offices in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake.