Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Sovereign Immunity | VA Injury Attorney | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Virginia Wrongful Death Lawyer

The United States has sovereign immunity laws that state that the federal government and state governments can’t be sued in some cases. On the federal level, a person cannot sue the government unless the government agrees to be sued or waives its right to immunity.

Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that traditionally shields government entities, including the state of Virginia and its subdivisions, from being sued without their consent. Historically, it was based on the principle that “the king can do no wrong” and was intended to protect the government’s ability to function without the constant threat of litigation. While sovereign immunity still exists in Virginia, the state has adopted certain exceptions and limitations that allow individuals to pursue legal claims against the government in specific situations.

Sovereign immunity and wrongful death lawsuits in Virginia are complex legal topics that intersect in cases where individuals seek compensation for the loss of a loved one due to alleged negligence or misconduct by a government entity or its employees. Understanding these concepts is crucial when navigating the legal landscape of wrongful death claims against the government in Virginia.

Wrongful Death Claims in Virginia

Wrongful death claims in Virginia are legal actions brought by the surviving family members or the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate when the death is caused by another party’s negligence or intentional misconduct. These claims seek compensation for the losses suffered as a result of the deceased person’s death, including funeral expenses, medical bills, lost income, and the emotional pain and suffering endured by the surviving family members.

Exceptions to Sovereign Immunity in Wrongful Death Cases

While sovereign immunity generally protects the government from lawsuits, Virginia has enacted specific statutory exceptions that allow for wrongful death claims against government entities in certain circumstances:

  • Motor vehicle accidents: Virginia’s Tort Claims Act allows individuals to bring claims against the Commonwealth of Virginia for injuries or wrongful death caused by the negligence of state employees in motor vehicle accidents while they are acting within the scope of their employment.
  • Negligence claims: Virginia law also permits wrongful death claims against local government entities, such as cities and counties, for injuries or deaths caused by the negligent acts or omissions of their employees or agents.
  • Medical malpractice: When a government-owned or operated medical facility or healthcare provider is alleged to have caused a wrongful death through medical malpractice, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed against the government entity under certain conditions.
  • Dangerous conditions: If a government entity’s negligence in maintaining public property, such as roads, highways, or buildings, leads to a wrongful death, a claim may be brought under the “dangerous condition” exception to sovereign immunity.
  • Public transportation: Wrongful death claims may be pursued against government entities responsible for public transportation services when a death occurs due to the negligence of their employees or the unsafe operation of public transportation vehicles.

It’s important to note that even when exceptions to sovereign immunity apply, pursuing a wrongful death claim against a government entity in Virginia can be challenging. There are specific procedural requirements, limitations on damages, and notice provisions that must be followed meticulously.

Furthermore, sovereign immunity extends to specific government employees acting within the scope of their employment. In most cases, individuals cannot directly sue government employees for wrongful death but must instead bring their claims against the government entity itself.

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Pursuing a wrongful death claim against a government entity is a complex procedure. Wrongful death cases with private parties can be complicated enough, but those involving the government can be overwhelming for the victim’s family. Having a skilled Virginia wrongful death attorney advocating for you is critical to the success of your claim. Contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free case evaluation and find out what your legal options may be.