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Dealing with the death of a loved one is terrible. This is especially true if your loved one’s death was preventable because it was caused by the carelessness, negligence or fault of another person or company. When a death is caused by another person’s negligence, the surviving loved ones may have grounds to seek compensation under what is called a “wrongful death action;” a wrongful death lawyer Charlottesville VA trusts can help answer the questions you may have.
Under Virginia law, a wrongful death action can be brought when someone’s death is caused by “the wrongful act, neglect, or default of any person” or business, and, had the individual not died, he or she would be able to bring an injury action against the person or business. Virginia law also recognizes the right of a mother to bring a wrongful death action on behalf of her unborn child that dies due to the wrongful act or negligence of another person or entity. The wrongful death lawyer Charlottesville VA residents rely upon can help you navigate the ins and outs of our State laws surrounding wrongful death claims.
Wrongful death claims are brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, usually an executor or an administrator. In plain English, that means that a court will appoint someone to bring a lawsuit or settle the claim. For unborn children who died in the womb due to the negligence or wrongful act of another party, the wrongful death action can be brought by the child’s mother or the mother’s personal representative. A representative or executor may wish to seek help from wrongful death lawyer Charlottesville VA has called upon for years to provide direction.
Juries or a judge in a wrongful death trial are allowed to award money for a number of different reasons. Unlike in a personal injury action, however, where the injured party is entitled to collect compensation for the injuries he or she suffered, compensation for wrongful death claims is based on the financial and emotional impact caused by the deceased person’s death.
According to Virginia law, wrongful death damages can include compensation for the following items:
- “Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace” of the deceased’s loved ones, which can include a financial award for “society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, and advice of the decedent.”
- Financial compensation due to lost income of the decedent and lost “services, protection, care and assistance” from the decedent.
- Expenses and costs due to the medical care and treatment the decedent received before death occurred;
- Reasonable funeral expenses; and
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was “willful or wanton” or was so reckless that it showed a conscious disregard for the safety of other people.
Who Receives the Money from a Wrongful Death Action?
Virginia law also says who receives the money from a wrongful death lawsuit. According to Virginia law, a settlement or verdict from a wrongful death claim shall be distributed among the following parties, in the following order:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse and children, and any grandchildren of a deceased child of the decedent;
- If there is no one available under #1, then to the decedent’s parents and siblings and any person from the decedent’s household who was dependent on the decedent for financial support;
- If the decedent did not have children or grandchildren but did have a surviving spouse and parents, then to the spouse and parents;
- To a combination of the surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, and any person from the decedent’s household who was dependent on the decedent for financial support;
- If none of the previously listed individuals survive, then the award shall be distributed according to the “Course of Descents” established by Virginia law.
The Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim
The statute of limitations for a lawsuit requires that the lawsuit be filed within a certain amount of time following an injury or death. If this deadline is not met, the right to recover compensation will be forever lost. In Virginia, wrongful death actions must be filed with a court within two years after the death of the injured person.
Wrongful Death Claims versus Survival Actions
In addition to a wrongful death claim, where the decedent’s death was caused by the negligence of another party, Virginia also recognizes what is called a “survival action.” In a survival action, the decedent’s personal representative can bring a lawsuit to get money for injuries suffered before the decedent died. In a way, a survival action can be thought of as the decedent’s personal representative taking over the personal injury claim that the injured party would have had.
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