Can a Family Member Sue for Wrongful Death?
A question we often get is whether a family member can sue for wrongful death. The short answer is that, yes, a family member can sue for wrongful death in Virginia. That said, state law is rather specific as to who qualifies for civil litigation when it comes to the loss of a close loved one. It is important to note that only a personal representative of the decedent (who might be a family member) can sue for wrongful death.
Varying in order of preference, Code of Virginia § 8.01-53 outlines which family members can benefit from a wrongful death claim:
- The decedent’s spouse, children, or grandchildren
- The decedent’s parents, siblings, or any party who shared the decedent’s household as a dependent
- Any surviving family member who inherits the deceased person’s estate
Losing a loved one in a sudden and traumatic way is devastating. No amount of money can fill the void left by your loved one. Possible compensation can, however, ease your financial stress and hold those responsible accountable for their negligence.
Wrongful death cases can be quite complex; however, securing legal representation can help protect your interests during this difficult time.
Virginia’s Personal Representative Requirement
As stated above, a family member can sue for wrongful death if they are the decedent’s personal representative. To comply with the state’s statute of limitations under Code of Virginia § 8.01-244, the personal representative has two years from the date of the decedent’s passing to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
Spouses and children of the decedent generally have the first right for an award of damages in a wrongful death suit. This law becomes a lot more complex if there is no surviving spouse or children. Your relationship to the decedent plays a key role in whether you may pursue legal action.
Wrongful Death Can Happen in Many Different Situations
A wrongful death claim is generally founded on a person’s death caused by the willful or wrongful act of another party.
The following types of reckless actions can result in death and a possible wrongful death lawsuit:
- Car accident
- Slip and fall
- Nursing home abuse
- Medical malpractice
- Defective product(s)
- Dangerous drug(s)
- Dog bite
- Workplace accident
These are just a few examples of situations that can lead to litigation. If you choose to file a lawsuit against the negligent party, you are allowed to pursue the cost of your damages even if criminal charges are pressed against them.
Types of Possible Compensation in a Wrongful Death Case
A successful wrongful death claim can help you recover the following damages:
- Final medical expenses for the decedent
- Funeral, burial, or memorial costs
- Loss of income and future potential earnings
- Loss of companionship
There are other types of possible compensation you may be able to seek by filing a wrongful death claim. Ultimately, the final outcome of your case depends upon a number of factors. Depending on how your loved one passed away will play a role in the amount of compensation you are able to seek for noneconomic damages.
For example, under Code of Virginia § 8.01-581.15, if a loved one passed away due to medical malpractice, there are certain caps on the amount of compensation you can recover through litigation. Because of the complexities of law surrounding wrongful death cases, some people opt to work with a lawyer who understands state regulations and precedents.
Get Help from the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC
A wrongful death action stems from a death that was most likely preventable, had the responsible party used care. During this time, you should be able to focus on grieving, celebrating your loved one’s life, and spending time with your family, not undertaking the legal burdens associated with a wrongful death claim alone.
Let the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC protect your best interests by providing you with legal representation so you can better focus on the things that matter most, your family.
Some of the services our team can provide include:
- Investigating the details of your loved one’s passing
- Negotiating with the involved parties on your behalf
- Keeping you updated on your legal options as they become available
- Estimating the cost of your economic and noneconomic damages
- Collecting evidence that supports your claim
- Taking your case to court, if necessary
Our goal is to render services that meet the needs of your case. We work on a contingency-fee-basis, meaning that you do not owe us any attorney’s fees unless we are able to get financial recovery for you and your family.
Call the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC Today
If you lost a close loved one due to the negligent actions of another party, get help from our firm today. The Parrish Law Firm, PLLC proudly serves clients in Manassas and throughout eastern Virginia.
Time is of the essence, so do not delay. Call the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC now for a free consultation at (571) 229-1800.