Damages Allowed in Virginia Wrongful Death Cases | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Juries in Virginia wrongful cases are allowed to award damages for financial losses, emotional distress and noneconomic losses such as the loss of companionship and care. The monetary awards are made to the family member or legal executor who brings the lawsuit on behalf of the person who died, whom lawyers and judges call “the decedent.”


The kinds and amounts of damages that can be claimed will depend on the facts of the case, but wrongful death attorneys use the following set of instructions to jurors as a template for making requests:

If you find your verdict for the plaintiff, then in determining the damages to which [s/he] is entitled, you shall include, but are not limited to, any of the following which you believe by the greater weight of the evidence were caused by the negligence of the defendant as damages suffered by the beneficiaries:

  1. Any sorrow, mental anguish, and loss of solace suffered by the beneficiaries. Solace may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, and advice of the decedent;
  2. Any reasonably expected loss in income of the decedent suffered by the beneficiaries;
  3. Any reasonably expected loss of services, protection, care, and assistance which the decedent provided to the beneficiaries;
  4. Any expense for the care treatment, and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in his death; and
  5. Reasonable funeral expenses.

If you award damages under paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) above, you may distribute these damages [among/between] [name of spouse, children, and children of the deceased child of decedent] or [names of surviving statutory beneficiaries].

If you award damages under (4) and (5) above, you shall specifically state the amount of damages for each.

The judge presiding over the case will read the instructions to jurors after they hear and see all the evidence presented during the trial and before they begin their deliberations. The decedent’s name and the name of the person suing on the decedent’s behalf will be filled in, of course. Jurors can ask to have any terms they find unfamiliar or confusing defined.

In order to decide against the defendant and award damages, jurors must determine that a preponderance (i.e., majority) of the evidence shows that

  • The decedent died because the defendant acted negligently or recklessly.
  • The decedent probably would have lived except for the negligence or recklessness of the defendant, and
  • The death created the financial losses, emotional distress and other losses claimed.