Families are as diverse and varied as the people who comprise them. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only about 18 percent of families in the US are considered nuclear families consisting of a mother, father, and the couple’s biological children. This means that nearly eight out of every ten US households have a different family dynamic.
When a loved one passes due to another’s negligent act, a wrongful death lawsuit can provide you and other surviving family members with much-needed financial compensation. And in a reflection of the current state of families in Virginia, the law permits stepsiblings of a decedent to share in this compensation.
If you are the half-sibling of a loved one who suffered a wrongful death, it is critical to understand the basics of the legal process of a wrongful death lawsuit and your rights in pursuing compensation.
Basics of a Virginia Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Certain specified family members and relatives can file a wrongful death lawsuit if their loved one dies as the result of another person’s negligence.
In other words, according to Virginia Code Section 8.01-50, if the decedent had survived the injury incident and could’ve brought a personal injury claim, then a wrongful death action can be claimed by these family members and relatives.
These lawsuits can provide you and other surviving family members with compensation. This can include compensation for:
- Mental anguish, pain, and suffering, as well as loss of companionship
- Financial support that could have been expected from the decedent
- Medical or other expenses incurred by the decedent prior to their death
- Funeral expenses
- Punitive damages
Speaking with a Virginia wrongful death attorney is the best way to learn the specific compensation you and your family may receive.
Recipients of Compensation in Virginia Wrongful Death Suits
Successful Virginia wrongful death lawsuits will result in a compensation award that is given to certain individuals. These individuals are identified in Virginia Code Section 8.01-53 and include a surprisingly large group of people.
Immediate Family Members
The decedent’s spouse and any children will receive a distribution of the compensation recovered. If any of the decedent’s children have died but have children of their own, then those children (the grandchildren of the decedent) may also receive compensation.
Parents and Siblings
If the decedent had no spouse and no children, then any compensation received through a wrongful death lawsuit will be distributed to the parents, brothers, and sisters of the decedent. Also included in this group are any relatives who were primarily supported by the decedent and of the decedent’s household.
For purposes of the distribution of wrongful death awards, half-brothers and half-sisters of the decedent are treated the same as the decedent’s full brothers and sisters. There is no subordination or other distinctions between the two types of siblings.
This means that if the decedent has both full siblings as well as half-siblings, both sets of siblings can receive compensation. A wrongful death beneficiary lawyer in Virginia can assist half-siblings in participating in the recovery received through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Half-Siblings Are Not Normally Able to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Just because a half-brother or half-sister can receive compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit does not necessarily mean they can participate further in the case. No matter how close you may have been to the decedent, your status as a half-sibling to the decedent does not automatically entitle you to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
Virginia Code Section 8.01-53 states that only the personal representative of the decedent can file a wrongful death lawsuit, with or without the assistance of a Virginia wrongful death lawyer.
The class of individuals who qualify as a decedent’s personal representative is set forth in the statute and is not dependent on the representative’s blood or marital relationship to the decedent.
Therefore, half-siblings do not necessarily fall into the class of people defined as representatives of the decedent. Although you might be entitled to compensation as a half-sibling, you will need to rely upon a qualified representative to file and prosecute a wrongful death action.
How a Virginia Wrongful Death Attorney Can Assist Half-Siblings
If your half-sibling has died due to another’s negligence or reckless conduct, you may feel as though you have little control over seeking justice for your loved one. Speaking with a wrongful death beneficiary lawyer in Virginia can be a helpful first step in such a situation.
Your Virginia wrongful death lawyer can also identify and encourage a representative to pursue a claim for your loved one, helping to ensure you and your family get the compensation you need.
The Road to Recovery Starts Here
No matter your relation to the decedent, if your loved one has died in Virginia or North Carolina and you suspect someone is to blame, our caring and dedicated legal team at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help. Reach out to us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.