The wrongful death of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or a faulty product not only brings tremendous grief but can also have a significant financial impact due to loss of future earnings and other elements. If your loved one suffered from a wrongful death and you seek an attorney to evaluate your case, there are a few important elements regarding a wrongful death claim about which you should be aware.
Initiating a Wrongful Death Claim
In the state of Virginia, a claim for wrongful death must be made within 2 years of the death. A wrongful death claim can be initiated by an executor named in the deceased’s will or in the absence of a will, the court may appoint an administrator who can initiate a claim. If an adult is not within the immediate family, the court may appoint an administrator who can initiate a claim.
Damages & Settlements
Damages in a wrongful death claim are determined at the discretion of a jury or the judge if the case goes to trial, and the following are the categories of potential damages:
- Compensation for sorrow and mental suffering including the loss of friendship, guidance, and advice;
- Compensation for loss of future earnings;
- The expenses for medical care associated with the injury that ultimately resulted in death;
- Reasonable funeral expenses; and,
- Compensation for punitive damages for willful misconduct and/or the disregard for the safety of others.
Damages associated with medical and funeral expenses will be paid to the providers of such services if the deceased’s health insurance did not satisfy all of the medical expenses or if the decedent did not have insurance.
If a case settles prior to going to trial, the settlement must ultimately be court approved. If the beneficiaries of such settlements cannot agree on how the proceeds will be apportioned, the court will conduct a hearing to decide what compensation will be
awarded to the various beneficiaries.
Beneficiaries of Damages
Beneficiaries in wrongful death cases are determined by statutory law in Virginia. The spouse and children of the deceased are the exclusive beneficiaries. If there are no spouse and children, the beneficiaries next in line are the parents and siblings of the deceased, and to any other relative who is primarily dependent on the decedent for support or services and is also a member of the household of the decedent. If there is a surviving spouse but no children of the deceased, the deceased parents are eligible beneficiaries.