Determining who has the right to sue for wrongful death in Virginia comes down to whether or not the deceased individual had a will. If the person did have a will, it will name an administrator. That administrator of the deceased person’s estate has the right to bring a wrongful death action against the negligent party.
However, when there is not a will, it’s generally the first family member who makes it to the courthouse. It can be the deceased party’s:
But they need to go to the courthouse and be declared an administrator to bring a lawsuit against another party on behalf of the deceased party’s estate.
What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?
Tragically, it’s not uncommon for people to die from common accidents. Perhaps they aren’t paying attention, don’t read directions, or embark on a dangerous task like electrical work that they know little about. A simple accident is not usually a cause for a wrongful death lawsuit.
However, when someone else is negligent or otherwise fails in their duty of care toward your loved one, you might have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. The key is that, had someone else been looking out for your loved one the way they should have, your loved one would not have passed away.
Here are some common scenarios that could qualify for a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Car accidents where another driver was negligent and caused the accident
- Work-related accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective or dangerous products (product liability)
- Pedestrian accidents, including bicyclists
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Slip and fall accidents or other forms of premises liability
- Birth injuries
What Damages Can You Seek in Wrongful Death Cases?
When pursuing a wrongful death case against a negligent party, there are several areas of compensation you can pursue. These include:
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
- Sorrow and mental anguish
- Loss of income, including wages and benefits that the person likely would have made during their lifetime
- Loss of the comfort, companionship, advice, and guidance the loved one provided
- Medical expenses from their illness or injury the negligent party caused
- Loss of the deceased individual’s protection, assistance, or care
In some circumstances, you might be able to pursue punitive damages as well. This would be in the case of the negligent party being willful or wanton in their disregard for the safety and wellbeing of others, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
How Long Do Family Members Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Much like other types of personal injury lawsuits, you have two years to file a wrongful death case. The statute of limitations starts from the date of your loved one’s passing.
Failing to meet this requirement will likely keep you from being eligible for a case except in rare circumstances. An example of a circumstance where you might be able to file outside the statute of limitations would be if you weren’t aware that negligence caused the death of your loved one until later. Perhaps news comes out later about dangerous products or you discover medical malpractice when reviewing medical records or finalizing your loved one’s estate.
The best way to ensure you file your lawsuit in time is to discuss your case with a Virginia wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will immediately go to work evaluating your case and seeking evidence about what happened. Attorneys know the importance of working within the statute of limitations and filing a case quickly.
Reach Out for Your Free Consultation
If you’re considering bringing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of your loved one’s estate, schedule a free consultation with Geoff McDonald & Associates as soon as possible. We’ll protect the memory and rights of your deceased loved one and help you pursue financial restitution for their death.