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Can You Recover Damages After a Fatal Car Accident?

May 23, 2022

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Can Determine if You Should Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim.

A fatal car accident can affect an entire family. Many people have immediate family members that depend on one person for income and support. When that person passes away, dependents can be overwhelmed. In some cases, the dependents may be able to file a wrongful death claim.

For the loss to be considered a wrongful death, there must have been an extremely negligent act by another motorist, such as drunk driving or excessive speeding. Running a red light or ignoring traffic controls are more examples of how negligent acts could cause fatal car accidents.

There are many ways in which a driver might cause a fatal accident. It could be a driving error, or maybe a vehicle had a mechanical problem that caused the driver to lose control. Whatever the cause, the result is permanent and distressing for the family.

Virginia allows immediate family members to file wrongful death claims against at-fault drivers. A wrongful or negligent act causes a wrongful death. The dependents could file claims for damages and injuries because of the at-fault driver’s actions. When the person who died in the accident could have filed a claim for damages, Virginia law says the immediate family could file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased’s estate.

Note that only monetary damages can be sought in a wrongful death claim. Any criminal charges would have to be filed by a prosecutor. Wrongful death is a civil matter.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?

A wrongful death lawsuit must have at least one plaintiff. That person must be an immediate family member or spouse. Virginia law says the following people could be plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Children of the deceased
  • Surviving parents
  • Siblings

Any surviving family member who might be entitled to inherit the estate also might be a plaintiff if the deceased has no spouse, surviving parents, children, or grandchildren.

Compensation for Wrongful Death

Wrongful death claims include the costs of medical bills and funeral expenses. Virginia also allows other forms of compensation for wrongful death:

  • Mental anguish and sorrow
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of services that the deceased provided
  • Loss of consortium

Mental anguish and sorrow are more commonly referred to as “grief,” and loss of consortium is closely related. The deceased’s spouse could argue that intimacy is gone, significantly impacting the surviving spouse’s life.

The decedent might have been the primary breadwinner of the family. They might have provided services that can be compensated for following their death. Virginia allows for compensatory damages for such claims and others that might be relevant to the case. An experienced lawyer can determine which damages might apply in your case if you lost a family member in a fatal accident.

Are Punitive Damages Possible in Wrongful Death Cases?

Punitive damages might be possible depending on the circumstances leading to the accident. Virginia allows punitive damages when the defendant has engaged in willful or wanton disregard for the decedent’s safety.

Punitive damages are a way to punish particularly negligent parties by discouraging them from repeating that egregious behavior in the future. For example, drunk driving might call for punitive damages.

Punitive damages also deter others from engaging in similar conduct. In many cases, punitive damages could lead to triple the initial award amount.

Proving Wrongful Death

You would have to show how the car accident caused the death. That could be simple if the death occurred during the accident but could be challenging if there is a significant delay between the accident and the date of death. It might be argued that a pre-existing condition caused the death.

There are many ways in which a claim for wrongful death could be argued. You need to provide the medical evidence that directly ties the accident to the cause of death. A medical diagnosis or a medical examiner’s report could provide that evidence. It is critical to have a lawyer if you wish to pursue a wrongful death case.

Note that there is a statute of limitations. In Virginia, you have up to two years from the date of the death to file a lawsuit for wrongful death. The date of the death starts the clock on the statute of limitations.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

A wrongful death lawsuit works similar to other personal injury claims. There are essential steps to take before filing these suits. Many wrongful death cases are settled before a lawsuit is filed, and a lawyer can help with that process.

Four elements must be proven in a wrongful death case: duty of care, breach of the duty, causation, and damages. With the proper legal counsel, you can prove these crucial elements.

A lawyer will carefully investigate the facts and advise if you should proceed with a wrongful death claim. They will determine the best course of action.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Can Determine if You Should Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim

If your loved one passed away in a car accident and you want to know your legal options, speak with one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers. Our legal team at East Coast Trial Lawyers can protect your rights. Call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-994-8910