Losing a loved one is always difficult. When your family member dies because of something that another person did – or failed to do – it can be even more difficult to process your grief.
A wrongful death lawsuit cannot make you whole again, but it may be a way to find a measure of justice. Through this type of claim, you can recover financial compensation for emotional distress, funeral expenses, medical bills, loss of income, and more. A skilled Virginia Beach wrongful death attorney can help you with the process.
At Poole, Brooke, Plumlee, we represent injury victims and their loved ones. In each case, our goal is to help our clients get maximum compensation for their injuries. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team, give our law office a call.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Under Virginia law, a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought whenever a death is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of any person or corporation. Essentially, if the victim could have brought a personal injury lawsuit if they had not died, then their survivors may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of claim is usually brought by the personal representative of the deceased person (decedent)’s estate.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be based on almost any negligent, reckless, or intentional act. They may arise from a fatal car accident, medical malpractice, a slip and fall, or a dangerous or defective product. If a person died because of something that someone else did (or did not do), then it may be possible to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their estate.
In Virginia, there is a 2-year statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim. This means that you have 2 years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a lawsuit. If you fail to do so within this time period, then you may not be able to pursue a claim.
What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is typically financial compensation. After a person dies, their family may be left with medical bills, funeral and burial costs, and other expenses. They may also be in financial distress because the decedent is no longer contributing their income or other services (such as taking care of kids) to the household. In addition, the survivors often suffer from a fair amount of grief as a result of the unexpected loss of their loved one.
A wrongful death lawsuit is brought by the personal representative of the estate, who may have been named in the decedent’s last will and testament or appointed by the probate court. The proceeds of the lawsuit are meant to benefit the decedent’s “statutory beneficiaries.” This may include:
- A surviving spouse
- Any other relative who was dependent on the decedent for support and services and a member of the same household (including a relative by blood, marriage, or adoption).
If the decedent did not leave behind any statutory beneficiaries, then the damages from a wrongful death claim would go to whoever would be entitled to inherit under Virginia’s law on intestate succession. These laws set out who will inherit if a person dies without a will.
Damages in a wrongful death case are slightly different from what a person may recover through a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the facts of the case, the surviving family members may recover compensation for:
- Sorrow, mental anguish, and emotional distress
- The reasonably expected loss of the victim’s income and assistance
- Medical expenses related to the injuries that led to the wrongful death
- Loss of consortium (loss of spousal companionship)
- Loss of the services, care, and protection of the decedent
- Reasonable funeral expenses
In some cases, punitive damages may be available if the at-fault party acted intentionally or recklessly. Punitive damages are designed to punish a wrongdoer and are capped at $350,000 under Virginia law.
To help you understand damages in a Virginia wrongful death claim, consider a case where a father of two minor children was killed in a car accident with a drunk driver. In a wrongful death claim, his wife and children could seek compensation for their own pain and suffering, his medical bills and funeral expenses, and the losses that they will suffer without their husband and father. Because the case involved reckless conduct – instead of simple negligence – they could also seek punitive damages.
How Can a Virginia Beach Wrongful Death Attorney Help?
After a loved one dies in a tragic accident, the last thing on your mind is probably filing a lawsuit. As time passes and you move forward in your grieving process, however, you may want to learn more about why your family member died – and to hold the at-fault party responsible.
A wrongful death lawyer in Virginia Beach can help you achieve justice. They will start with a thorough investigation to determine who was at fault for the death. At the same time, they will consult with experts to help build a case and prove that the responsible party’s negligent or reckless conduct caused the death.
Once the investigation is complete, your attorney will send a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance company. At the same time, they will prepare a lawsuit to be filed within Virginia’s statute of limitations. While most personal injury cases are resolved via settlement, it is important to file a claim on time to preserve your rights.
Throughout the process, your lawyer will aggressively negotiate with the insurance company to obtain a full and fair settlement. When necessary, they will take the claim to court to ask a jury to return a verdict in your favor. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that you get the money that you need to move forward with your life after a devastating loss.
Our law firm handles wrongful death lawsuits on a contingency fee basis. This means that you won’t pay anything upfront, and will only pay a fee if we recover money for you through a settlement or verdict at trial. You won’t have to worry about whether you can afford an attorney.
Get Help from a Virginia Beach Wrongful Death Attorney
After losing a loved one in an accident, you may not know what to do or where to turn for help. Our law firm is here for you. We will take on the insurance company for you, fighting to help you get maximum compensation for your losses.
For more than 30 years, the attorneys of Poole, Brooke, Plumlee, PC have advocated for the rights of Virginians. We work hard to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome for their cases. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a Virginia Beach wrongful death lawyer, give us a call at 757-499-1841 or fill out our online contact form.