Can I File a Wrongful Death Case If a Loved One Dies?
Suffering the death of a loved is no doubt a traumatic experience, especially if the death was sudden, unexpected, and the result of a catastrophic accident. While there is nothing that can be done to rewind time, bring your loved one back, and truly right this wrong, filing a wrongful death claim may be a possibility. A wrongful death action can help you and your family recover monetary compensation for the value of your losses. At the law offices of Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz, Ltd., our wrongful death lawyers can help you to build your claim.
Consider the following about when you may file a wrongful death case after the death of a loved one:
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action?
This first thing that’s important to know about wrongful death actions in our state is that not everyone maintains the right to file a claim. The Code of Virginia Section 8.01-50 reads that only the personal representative of the decedent may file a wrongful death action. The personal representative is whoever is named as such in the decedent’s will – typically a surviving spouse. If no personal representative is named in a will or if no will exists, the court will assign a personal representative.
While the personal representative is the only party who can legally file the suit, the suit can be brought on behalf of the statutory beneficiaries of the deceased, including the surviving spouse and children of the decedent, or, if a spouse and children do not exist, then the deceased’s surviving parents, brothers and sisters, or any other dependent relatives.
What Damages Are Recoverable?
Section 8.01-52 of the Code of Virginia outlines the types and value of damages that a party may seek in a wrongful death claim. Per the statute, the jury should award damages in a manner that is “fair and just,” and damages for the following types of harm may be sought:
- The value of sorrow, mental anguish, and loss of companionship, comfort, and guidance of the deceased;
- The value of the decedent’s loss of income, services, protection, and care;
- The value of any medical expenses incurred by the deceased prior to death that are related to the accident;
- The value of funeral and burial expenses; and
- When appropriate, punitive damages.
Punitive damages are not compensatory in nature; they are meant to punish the defendant for egregious negligence. In Virginia, these types of damages are capped at $350,000.
What Types of Accidents Justify a Wrongful Death Action?
While losing a loved one is hard regardless of the circumstances, only certain accidents and situations warrant a wrongful death claim. To be sure, a wrongful death claim is only pursuable when the death of the decedent was a direct result of the wrongful or neglectful act of the defendant. In order to be successful in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove that death would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions, and that those actions were wrongful or negligent.
Types of accidents where these elements may be satisfied include motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian and bicycle accidents, motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall accidents, dangerous premises accidents, and more. If you’re not sure whether or not you have a wrongful death claim, our law firm can provide you with a free consultation and answer your questions.
Do I Have to Work with an Attorney?
You do not have to work with an attorney when bringing forth a wrongful death claim, but the failure to do so could have a negative effect on your case. Gathering the various types of evidence that are required to prove duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages takes time and refined knowledge and experience, as does all of the legal paperwork that goes into a wrongful death claim. Working with an attorney who knows how to prove the elements of wrongful death, can thoroughly investigate your claim, and who’s passionate about helping you recover your full settlement award can be a major boon to your case.
Call the Office of Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz, Ltd. Today
Our Virginia wrongful death lawyers at the office of Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz, Ltd. want to help you and your family if you have suffered the unexpected and wrongful death of a loved one. To learn more about our legal services, please request a free consultation from our law firm by calling us directly at 434-977-7977, sending us a message, or visiting our Charlottesville office in person.