A wrongful death occurs when the passing of a loved one is caused by the wrongful or negligent actions of another party. It is important to note that the circumstances of the death must qualify as a personal injury. In other words, if the victim survived the event, they would have been eligible to pursue a personal injury claim; therefore, a wrongful death is a type of personal injury claim where statutory beneficiaries can collect compensation from their loved one’s passing.
In Virginia, statutory beneficiaries are able to pursue wrongful death claims. A statutory beneficiary is a family member or dependent of the deceased. For example, children, parents, siblings, and other close relatives are qualified to file a wrongful death claim. Financial compensation cannot bring a loved one back, but it helps the family or another recipient heal, especially if they relied on the deceased’s assets.
What Damages are Obtainable in Wrongful Death Claims?
Compensation for statutory beneficiaries is crucial because it helps the family emotionally and financial recover after the passing of their loved one. The types of damages that are awarded in wrongful death claims include:
- Compensation for grief and the loss of companionship
- Lost wages and benefits of the deceased, particularly if the survivors depended on the loved one’s assets
- Medical expenses related to the death of the loved one
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Punitive damages
Punitive damages operate differently from other forms of compensation. Punitive damages are meant to punish the negligent party that caused the wrongful death and prevent future misconduct.
What are the Elements Involved in a Wrongful Death Claim?
There is no definitive way to determine the value of a wrongful death lawsuit, since these claims operate on a case-by-case basis. However, there are different elements that can affect a wrongful death claim, including:
Severity: The courts will determine how much the wrongful death affected the surviving family members and other dependents. If the deceased had no children, this will be a factor. The courts also examine the deceased’s finances, including wages and benefits. The higher the income, the more likely the survivors will be granted higher amounts of compensation.
Fault and Liability: In Virginia, the pure contributory negligence rule applies. This means that the plaintiff must be zero percent at-fault for the accident that resulted in injuries or death. If it is determined that the deceased contributed to the fatal accident, it may affect potential awards.
Insurance: Insurance on assets is a huge component in a wrongful death claim. The suit relies heavily upon the amount of compensation that is available under the insurance policy. For example, if the deceased did not have insurance or assets, it will be difficult to recover any awards. Since many elements impact a wrongful death claim, it is in one’s best interest to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Statute of Limitations
The passing of a loved one is hard to overcome. Wrongful death is meant to aid in the healing of statutory beneficiaries. Survivors may want to take time to heal before filing any type of suit; however, loved ones should keep in mind that there is a time limit on personal injury claims. In Virginia, the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim is two years, which starts from the date of the death. Although statutory beneficiaries should take time to recover after their loved one passes away, they should be mindful of the statute of limitations.
A lawyer can handle the legalities of the claim and ensure that it is filed in a timely manner while the deceased’s loved ones focus on mourning and recovery. It may take months or several years to resolve a wrongful death case. The length of the case depends on various factors, such as witnesses, damages, and other complexities. By filing a wrongful death claim in a reasonable time frame, the legal process can efficiently begin.
What Events Cause Wrongful Deaths?
A wrongful death can result from numerous accidents, including slip and fall accidents, work accidents, and motor vehicle accidents. However, a large amount of wrongful deaths are caused by car accidents. Fatal car accidents are commonplace in the United States. In fact, the National Safety Council reported that 38,800 people were involved in fatal car accidents in 2019. Additionally, nearly 4.4 million victims were seriously injured from collisions.
Which Driving Behaviors Cause Fatal Car Accidents?
Today, cars are equipped with many different types of safety technology to prevent and reduce the number of collisions. New vehicles are installed with driver automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, advanced backup cameras and headlights, and other safety components to protect occupants in a vehicle.
Even with all the safety features in vehicles, car accidents are still prevalent in the United States. In order to reduce the likelihood of a collision, drivers should be aware of the common causes of fatal accidents. Typical behaviors that cause serious and fatal car wrecks include:
Speeding: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding is a top factor in one-third of all fatal car accidents. All motorists should follow the posted speed limit and adjust their driving to poor road and weather conditions.
Drunk Driving: In 2018, 29 percent of car accident deaths were caused by drunk driving, according to the NHTSA. If one is intending to drink, make sure to assign a designated driver ahead of time or plan for a rideshare service.
Distracted Driving: Texting, adjusting the heat, radio, or a navigational device, and eating or drinking frequently cause distracted driving collisions. The most common culprit of distracted driving accidents is cellphone use. To reduce the likelihood of a crash, stow away the phone or put it on Do Not Disturb.
Failure to Follow Traffic Laws: Always obey speed limits, stop signs, and red lights, and follow the right-of-way. Reckless driving causes many fatal collisions each year in the United States.
If one is hit by a negligent driver, they should speak to a lawyer about their legal options. If a family is affected by a fatal car accident, they may have legal recourse as well.
How can a Lawyer Help After the Passing of a Loved One?
If a loved one succumbs to personal injuries, their surviving family members or dependents should explore the option of a wrongful death claim. The passing of a loved one is extremely difficult for anyone, but a lawyer can assist with the healing process by handling the necessary paperwork, focusing on timelines, examining evidence, and fighting on behalf of their client so that the surviving victims can emotionally recover.
A wrongful death claim is designed to aid and support statutory beneficiaries after the passing of a loved one. If one is considering filing a claim for a wrongful death, they should speak to a lawyer right away to avoid complications with the statute of limitations.
Virginia Beach Personal Injury Lawyers Help Loved Ones Heal After Fatal Collisions
Severe car accidents can cause catastrophic or fatal injuries. If you were affected from the wrongful passing of a loved one, you may have legal options. Our Virginia Beach personal injury lawyers advocate on the behalf of statutory benefices so that they can financially recover after fatal accidents. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we will carefully examine your case and ensure that all of your concerns are addressed. Complete our online form or call us at 757-352-2237 for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we proudly assist clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.