Norfolk Law Firms
When a loved one dies due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, the grief and
anger can be crushing, especially when the loss is sudden and unexpected. In addition
to the sorrow, the fear and anxiety about your financial future can be overwhelming.
Although it is difficult to contemplate taking legal action during this difficult time, you
have a very limited amount of time to pursue a wrongful death action which can provide
for your family’s future.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death cases are very emotionally charged, and it helps if you understand what
wrongful death laws do and do not do.
Wrongful death is a civil action, not a criminal action. It is meant to compensate family
members of people who would have had a personal injury claim, if they had not dies
from their injuries.
Wrongful death claims typically arise from accidents and incidents involving negligence
or product liability, and there is no need to prove intent. Wrongful death is not meant to
punish the responsible party, but to hold them financially responsible.
Having said that, punitive damages are sometimes available in wrongful death cases,
and wrongful death actions may be brought in cases of intentional wrongdoing
regardless of the outcome of any criminal charges.
Virginia Wrongful Death Damages
Damages in Virginia wrongful death can include:
- Medical expenses created by the injury
- “Reasonable” funeral expenses
- Loss of future income of the decedent
- Lost services, such as child care and home maintenance
- Lost protection, care and assistance
- Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship,
- comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent
- Punitive damages
Punitive damages are only available in cases of willful or wanton conduct.
Virginia Wrongful Death Beneficiaries
Virginia law is very specific when it comes to who can receive wrongful death
- First priority goes to the surviving spouse and children of the decedent. A grandchild can take the place of a deceased child.
- If there is a surviving spouse, but no children or grandchildren, the spouse and parents become beneficiaries.
- When there is no surviving spouse child or grandchild, parents and siblings or any dependent relative who was also a member of the decedent’s household can be beneficiaries.
Virginia law specifies a more extended chain of possible beneficiaries, depending on the
nature of the relationship to the decedent, and whether the potential beneficiaries were
dependents of the decedent.