Tappahannock Wrongful Death Attorney
Dedicated Wrongful Death Lawyer Assisting Clients in Tappahannock, Virginia
Losing a loved one to a preventable accident is something no one in Tappahannock should have to experience. At Emroch & Kilduff, we are dedicated to helping families in Virginia who have lost a parent or child due to the negligence of another party. We understand that it can be extremely difficult to consider filing a lawsuit while you are trying to come to terms with your loss. However, it is important to get in touch with a Tappahannock wrongful death lawyer as soon as you are able to do so. We can help you obtain financial compensation and hold the responsible party accountable.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim in Tappahannock?
Under Virginia law (Section 8.01-50), when a person dies because of the negligence or wrongful act of another party, the deceased’s family members—or a personal representative—may be able to file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death lawsuits are quite similar to personal injury lawsuits in that both involve the negligence or wrongful act of another party and allow those who are injured to recover compensation.
Virginia law says that a wrongful death claim can be brought “whenever the death of a person shall be caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of any person or corporation, or of any ship or vessel, and the act, neglect, or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action.”
This language can be difficult to construe. You might think about a wrongful death lawsuit like this: If the deceased had survived his or her injuries, then he or she would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages. Since the deceased did not survive, wrongful death law allows a representative of the deceased to effectively stand in the deceased’s position to seek compensation from the party responsible for the accident and resulting injuries.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia?
Under the Virginia statute, the personal representative of the estate will file the wrongful death lawsuit. Sometimes, the personal representative is appointed through the will of the deceased. In some cases, the state of Virginia will appoint one. Most often, it is the deceased’s spouse, if she or he is alive, who acts as the personal representative. If there is no surviving spouse, the personal representative may be an adult child or parent of the deceased.
If you have questions about who can file a wrongful death claim, you should discuss your situation with a Tappahannock wrongful death attorney.
Who Can Recover Damages in a Virginia Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Virginia law (Section 8.01-53) lists the beneficiaries, known as “statutory beneficiaries,” who can be entitled to receive damages in a wrongful death claim. According to the statute, damages are generally distributed as follows:
- To the surviving spouse, children of the deceased, and children of any deceased child of the deceased; or
- If no surviving spouse or children exist, then to the parents, brothers, and sisters of the deceased, and to any other relative who was primarily dependent on the deceased for support or services and was also a member of the same household as the deceased; or
- If there is a surviving spouse and surviving parent(s) but no surviving children or grandchildren, then to the surviving spouse and surviving parent(s).
- If no statutory beneficiaries exist, then the damages award will be distributed according to Virginia intestate rules. Additional guidelines exist that determine how damages are to be distributed. The specifics of such distribution depend on the details of the deceased person’s family. For more information, discuss your potential claim with a Tappahannock wrongful death attorney.
Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim in Tappahannock
What kinds of damages can the decedent’s surviving family members expect to receive? Most wrongful death plaintiffs receive compensatory damages if their claim is successful. Compensatory damages fall into two categories:
- Economic damages: Economic damages compensate a victim for objective financial losses. Examples of economic damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death claim include compensation for hospital and other medical expenses paid by the decedent before succumbing to injuries, funeral expenses and burial costs, and loss of future income from the decedent.
- Noneconomic damages: Noneconomic damages compensate a victim for subjective, nonmaterial losses. Since noneconomic damages awards can vary greatly depending upon the circumstances of the case and makeup of the jury, they tend to be a little controversial. Examples of types of noneconomic damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death claim include loss of companionship or consortium, sorrow, and loss of protection and care from the decedent.
In rare cases, punitive damages may be appropriate. Punitive damages are not designed to compensate a victim for losses. Instead, they are designed to penalize the wrongdoer for especially egregious behavior and act as deterrents. Punitive damages are not awarded in every case, but sometimes, the defendant’s actions were intentional or showed willful disregard for the lives of others. In such cases, punitive damages are awarded both to punish the behavior and discourage future similar behavior.
Statute of Limitations in a Virginia Wrongful Death Case
How long do you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Tappahannock, Virginia? The statute of limitations tells a plaintiff how long he or she has to file a lawsuit. In wrongful death cases, the personal representative must file a wrongful death claim within two years from the date of the deceased’s death. If a wrongful death lawsuit is not brought within two years, then the case cannot be heard in court and the deceased’s family members cannot recover damages. It is critical that you contact an attorney as soon as possible to make sure that your claim is preserved.