What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death?
What qualifies as wrongful death, according to Virginia Code § 8.01-50, are fatalities that result from the following actions:
- The wrongful or negligent act of another person or company
- The death of an unborn child caused by wrongful or neglectful acts
A qualifying family member can file an insurance claim or wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased person would have had a valid claim for personal injury, had they survived.
Determining if You Are Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim
The death of a loved one can be stressful and upsetting for many different family members, but not everyone is entitled to compensation for the loss of a loved one. The law determines who is eligible to receive compensation in a claim for wrongful death and in what order any recoverable damages are distributed.
According to Virginia Code § 8.01-53, the order of persons eligible to receive any financial compensation from wrongful death claims is:
- The deceased person’s surviving spouse
- The deceased person’s biological or adopted children
- The deceased person’s grandchildren if their parent is deceased
- The deceased person’s biological or adoptive parents if they were financially supported by the deceased in the year preceding their death
- The deceased person’s biological or adopted siblings or other family members who shared the same home
Defining your right to compensation from a wrongful death claim can be complicated. A wrongful death attorney will help you understand the eligibility and succession involved in filing a claim for the wrongful death of a loved one and in defining the type and amount of your recoverable financial damages.
Defining Damages Available to Families of Fatal Accident Victims
In a wrongful death case, the person who caused your loved one’s death, or the injuries that led to their death, could be held financially responsible for their actions. You can recover the medical expenses involved in treating your loved one for any personal injuries they received that resulted in their death. Your lawyer for wrongful death can also help you assign a dollar amount to your claim based on the following expenses and financial losses:
- The mental and emotional anguish of the future absence of their comfort and companionship
- The loss of income your loved one could not earn at the time of their injury or would have earned in the future if they had survived
- The loss of the assistance, guidance, and counsel your loved one would have provided to the family
- Reasonable expenses for the cost of your loved one’s funeral and burial
Discuss the cost of your loved one’s medical and funeral expenses along with the calculations for your financial losses with your wrongful death lawyer. A careful calculation of your loved one’s income loss and the value of household and other contributions they made to your family will help your lawyer accurately assign a monetary value to your pending wrongful death case.
You May Qualify for Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In a wrongful death insurance claim or lawsuit, you are entitled to certain recoverable damages when your claim is successful. In some—but not all—wrongful death cases, you might also be entitled to punitive damages. Your lawyer will let you know if the actions that caused your loved one’s demise make you eligible for punitive damages.
Punitive damages are a specific type of financial compensation awarded only when the person who caused the fatal injuries and death of your loved one acted in a way that was deliberately harmful or intentionally reckless. You might be able to collect punitive damages if your loved one’s death was caused by “willful or wanton conduct,” or behavior that exhibited an intentional disregard for the safety, well-being, or protection of your loved one.
A Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help You Understand Your Rights
If your family is looking for answers after the death of a loved one or if you want to prove your loved one died because of someone else’s negligent actions, you should take immediate action. The time you have to file wrongful death claims is generally limited to two years. In that time frame, your lawyer can help you value, prepare, prove, and file your case for wrongful death compensation.
Parrish’s career is built on experience representing insurance companies, which helps protect clients from those same companies now. With information from inside the insurance industry, the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC, can help you fight for the compensation your family needs. If your loved one’s demise qualifies for a wrongful death lawsuit, call a member of our team at (571) 229-1800 to start pursuing the financial compensation your family is entitled to.