Bringing Forth a Wrongful Death Action in Virginia
Breit Cantor Grana Buckner—June 23, 2016
The loss of a loved one is never easy to endure. Unfortunately, this feeling can be even worse when the death is caused by a negligent action or someone else’s recklessness. In legal terms, this event is called a wrongful death. Virginia’s wrongful death statutes are detailed in Virginia Code Sections 8.01-50 et. seq. This states that whenever someone’s death is the result of a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another party, there are certain damages that may be recoverable by the surviving family members. The statutes also outline who can bring forth a wrongful death action and what damages may be recovered.
Under Virginia Code Section 8.01-52, there is a list of damages that may be recoverable by the surviving family members of the decedent in a wrongful death action. These damages may be awarded through jury verdict or in settlement with the negligent party. The jury or court may award damages as they see fit for the circumstances, relying on various considerations such as the age of the decedent, surviving family members, and lost income earning potential.
Some of the recoverable damages may include:
- Funeral expenses (within reason)
- Medical expenses for care, hospitalization, or treatment from date of injury to the date of death
- Pain and suffering including mental anguish, loss of guidance or comfort, lost companionship, loss of advice, and sorrow
- Reasonably expected loss of income, services, care, assistance, and protection
In matters when the action was willful or wanton conduct, there may be grounds for the surviving family members to recover punitive damages. For certain recoverable damages, the jury or court must specifically state the recovered damages. When it comes to funeral and medical expenses, the recoverable damages may be issued to them for the services rendered.
Who Can Recover Damages?
In a wrongful death action, anyone can qualify to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the estate, but for strategic purposes, the spouse or a child usually qualifies as an administrator, which allows them to then file suit. Also, there are specific parties who are allowed to recover damages in a lawsuit. The list is detailed under Virginia Code Section 8.01-53 and includes the surviving spouse, children, parent, siblings, and other dependent relatives who live in the same household of the decedent. There are certain restrictions, however, that determines the order of who can recover damages. For instance, the spouse, children, and children of any deceased child would be the first available parties to do recover. If none of these exists, then the parents, brothers, and sisters of the deceased, and any relative who was dependent on the deceased and lived in the same household.
Types of Accidents
Wrongful deaths can happen in any kind of incident. This includes automobile crashes, motorcycle collisions, crashes with pedestrians or bicyclists, trucking collisions, workplace incidents, premises liability, nursing home abuse, and even defective products. These are all potential negligent acts and are all preventable. When an injury is enough to result in death, it is very important to make sure you understand Virginia’s statutes regarding wrongful death and what kind of action you may be able to take so you can obtain justice.
Since 1979, Breit Cantor Grana Buckner has been representing individuals who have been harmed by other’s negligent acts, including families who have lost a loved one to a wrongful death. Our Richmond wrongful death attorneys use extensive experience to guide clients through the complex legal process and towards the resolution they desire. You don’t have to worry about the legal battle. You and your family can grieve as you should and we can advocate on your behalf to seek the compensation and the justice your family deserves. Call us today to learn more.