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If you have lost a loved one unexpectedly due to another person’s negligence, you might be entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim against them. In many cases, a wrongful death action is the best way to obtain a measure of justice from the responsible party.
From building a strong case to dealing with insurance companies, there are many complex issues that can come with a wrongful death lawsuit. Let a lawyer from our firm guide you in your Vienna wrongful death claim.
The Right to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If you have questions about your right to pursue a wrongful death case after the loss of a loved one, you are not alone. Many people that have lost a beloved family member are unsure of their legal rights during this challenging time.
In Virginia, individual family members do not have the right to initiate a wrongful death action. Instead, only a personal representative of the estate has the power to file this legal action. Appointing a personal representative is ultimately the role of the court. However, many people request a specific person to serve as their personal representative in a will.
That does not mean a family member could never be in a position to file a wrongful death case. Often, courts will appoint a spouse or child as the personal representative of an estate. A lawyer from our firm could help you pursue the position of personal representative, allowing you to file a wrongful death suit in Vienna.
Who Recovers the Proceeds from a Claim?
It is important to understand that the right to file a lawsuit is very different from the right to recover the proceeds of a lawsuit. While a personal representative of the estate is tasked with filing the lawsuit, only “statutory beneficiaries” may recover any proceeds collected from a claim.
Not every living relative of the decedent qualifies as a statutory beneficiary. Family members that qualify as statutory beneficiaries are outlined by Virginia Code §8.01-53. According to the statute, the following family members qualify as statutory beneficiaries:
- Surviving spouses and children have first rights to any recovery from a wrongful death lawsuit. If a child is deceased, a grandchild can recover in their stead.
- If the decedent had no surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren, then their parents and siblings become statutory beneficiaries.
- Surviving relatives that shared a household with the decedent.
- If no other relatives qualify, any surviving family member that could recover through Virginia’s intestate succession laws become statutory beneficiaries.
There is one additional circumstance to consider. If a decedent was married but had no children, both the surviving spouse and any surviving parents could pursue a claim together. However, the parents would not be eligible to recover if it is found that they abandoned the decedent as a child.
The Deadline to File Suit
Like with any lawsuit, there is a deadline for filing a wrongful death case in Vienna. This legal deadline is known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations serves as a firm deadline for plaintiffs in a wrongful death action. If a personal representative waits until after this deadline expires to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the court is likely to dismiss the case with prejudice.
A dismissal with prejudice is final and prevents the claim from ever being pursued again. This is true no matter how strong the facts of the case might be.
The statute of limitations is governed by Virginia Code §8.01-244. According to the statute, a plaintiff has two years to file their case in court. This two-year window starts to expire on the day the decedent passes away. While this may sound like plenty of time, investigating these cases can be a lengthy process. It is in your best interest to seek out legal counsel as soon as possible to discuss your claim.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death lawsuit could result from any number of circumstances. It is helpful to think of these cases as a negligence claim that the decedent could have pursued had they survived their injuries. The same facts that lead to personal injury lawsuits frequently result in viable wrongful death cases as well. Some examples include:
- Motor vehicle accidents. Car accidents are one of the most common causes of accidental deaths in the United States. When these accidents occur due to negligence, they could lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Medical mistakes. When physicians or surgeons make mistakes, the results could be fatal. A viable wrongful death lawsuit could stem from a surgical mistake, a delayed diagnosis, or a prescription drug error.
- Violent assault. A wrongful death claim could also result from an intentional criminal act, including assault. Often, a wrongful death claim could help a family pursue justice when a criminal conviction is unlikely.
- Slip and fall accidents. Slips, trips, and falls are some of the leading causes of hospitalization. A fall could have fatal consequences, particularly when the injured person lands on their head or neck.
- Defective products. Product defects have the potential to cause devastating or life-threatening injuries. These claims could result from an injury caused by an exploding product or an illness that stems from consuming tainted food or medicine.
There are too many potential causes of a wrongful death case to list them all. If you believe your loved one passed away due to preventable negligence, an attorney from our office could review your case and advise you of your legal rights.
Talk to an Attorney about a Wrongful Death Claim
If your loved one lost their life due to the negligence of another person or entity, you might be able to seek justice through a wrongful death claim. A legal case cannot bring your loved one back, but it could ease the financial strain that can come with a sudden loss. A Vienna lawyer from the Parrish Law Firm, LLC could help you pursue your wrongful death case.
Attorney Jim Parrish understands the importance of compassionate legal representation during this difficult time. We are prepared to fight for your legal rights and carry the burden of your legal claim. To learn more, contact (571) 229-1800 for your free consultation.