When you think of a personal injury case, you probably think that only the person who was hurt will be a party to any claim. For example, if a woman suffers broken bones in a motor vehicle accident and she was alone in the car at the time, then you may assume that she will be the only person who can file a claim. However, there are situations where other parties will be affected by a personal injury case.
In some states, family members of a person hurt in an accident may have their own separate claim for damages, known as loss of consortium. However, in Virginia, spouses and other family members cannot file an independent claim for loss of consortium. The only exception is in cases involving wrongful death, where a surviving spouse and/or children may recover for sorrow, mental anguish, and solace.
At Poole, Brooke, Plumlee, we are fierce advocates for injury victims. We offer free initial consultations for personal injury cases and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. Reach out to our law office today to talk to a Virginia Beach personal injury attorney about your claim.
Who Can Be a Party to a Personal Injury Case?
Typically, there are two parties in a personal injury case: the plaintiff (person who got hurt) and the defendant (person who caused the accident). Depending on the situation, there may be more than one plaintiff (such as in a multi-vehicle motor vehicle accident) and several defendants (such as a medical malpractice case where numerous healthcare professionals were negligent in some way).
For example, consider a case involving a truck accident. A big rig was speeding and ran a red light, slamming into a vehicle that had two occupants (the driver and a passenger). The two injury victims could file a lawsuit against the truck driver, their employer (trucking company), and even a local government entity for failing to maintain the roads properly, a factor that contributed to the crash.
In this case, other people may also be able to file their own claims – even though they weren’t in the accident. For example, assume that one of the victims was a young father who died in the crash. His surviving wife and children may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to seek financial compensation for their losses, including sorrow, mental anguish, loss of the deceased’s services, protection, care and assistance, and loss of their comfort, guidance, companionship, and advice.
Even though a family member cannot file a loss of consortium claim in Virginia, they are still affected by a personal injury lawsuit. If a loved one is hurt in a slip and fall or another type of accident, it can have a serious impact on the family as a whole. A spouse and kids may suffer due to loss of income, increased medical bills, and their loved one being unable to do the things that they normally do. They may also be affected by the psychological distress that the injury victim suffers.
Compensation from a personal injury case may also come into play in a divorce case. If one spouse suffered a personal injury during the course of the marriage and received money from a settlement or verdict at trial, then it may be subject to property division during a divorce. However, only the economic damages – like lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage – would be a divisible asset. Non-economic damages for losses for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other issues are personal, however, and not subject to division.
Can Family Members Recover Damages in a Virginia Personal Injury Case?
As noted above, Virginia does not permit the loss of consortium claims in standard personal injury cases. This means that unless a family member dies as a result of an accident, they cannot file a separate claim for damages for their own losses. If a close family member does pass away from an accident, their surviving spouse, children, or other family members could potentially recover financial compensation through a wrongful death claim.
In 2018, a Virginia lawmaker introduced a bill that would allow the loss of consortium claims in personal injury cases. Unfortunately, that bill did not move forward, so Virginia still does not permit these types of claims.
Hurt in an Accident? Our Law Firm Can Help.
Personal injury law is complex and varies greatly by state. While spouses and kids cannot file a loss of consortium claim if their loved one is hurt in an accident, they may be able to seek compensation in a wrongful death claim if their loved one dies as a result of the accident. Our law firm can guide you through the process, starting with a free initial consultation.
The personal injury lawyers of Poole, Brooke, Plumlee are fierce advocates for accident victims throughout Virginia. Our law firm works hard to help our clients get maximum compensation for their injuries. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a Virginia Beach personal injury attorney, call us at 757-499-1841 or fill out our online contact form.