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Being the surviving victim of a wrongful death accident is never easy. During this time, your main priority may be to focus on grieving. However, due to the statute of limitations, you have limited time to file a wrongful death claim in Virginia. Find out how a wrongful death lawyer can help you with your claim.
What Exactly Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a term used in civil court. It describes a civil claim that seeks to recover damages against a party for causing a death. You may choose to attempt a wrongful death claim instead of a criminal action or when a criminal charge was unsuccessful.
A wrongful death case involves a death caused by parties who knowingly or negligently attributed to the victim's death. Examples of wrongful death actions include:
- Drowning and boating accidents
- Accidental poisoning or overdose from prescribed medications
- Medical malpractice
- Vehicle accidents
- Premises liability accidents
- Pedestrian and cycling accidents
These are just a few of the most common accidents leading to wrongful death claims. Of course, no matter the cause, it is vital that you file your claim before the expiration of the Virginia wrongful death statute of limitations to ensure your recovery of damages.
The Wrongful Death Statutes of Limitations for Virginia
Virginia's statute of limitations on wrongful death is essentially a deadline. States have statutes of limitations for various civil claims and criminal charges that a party could bring. The statute of limitations period delineates the maximum period of time parties have to file their legal claim.
The statute of limitations exists for several reasons:
- The main purpose of a statute of limitations is to prevent unfair legal actions. After too many years have passed, relevant evidence may be lost forever. Witness accounts especially become less reliable after too much time has elapsed.
- It lets parties know how long they have to file their claims or press charges. You are not rewarded or penalized for filing a wrongful death claim earlier or later, so long as you file it within Virginia's statute of limitations. However, filing a lawsuit as soon as reasonably possible is best.
- It prevents malicious lawsuits used to harass people. The statute of limitations lets the defendant know how long they must anticipate a lawsuit being filed against them.
Different types of claims may have different statutes of limitations, and the same claim may have different statutes of limitations in different states. Common time periods for statutes of limitations range from one to three years.
In Virginia, the statute of limitations on wrongful death claims is two years from the date of death. If you attempt to bring a wrongful death claim in Virginia after two years has passed, you will almost certainly be prohibited from doing so.
What To Consider Before Taking Legal Action in a Wrongful Death Claim
Before you take legal action in a wrongful death claim, there are two points you should consider, besides the statute of limitations:
- Warranted financial compensation in Virginia
- Who can stand in a wrongful death case
If you have questions about filing your claim in Virginia, consulting with wrongful death attorneys can help answer your questions and explain your options.
Warranted Financial Compensation in Virginia
Some civil claims may not be warranted financially. When a party is harmed, they may have the legal right to make a claim to recover the financial compensation they deserve. However, if the claim's anticipated financial compensation is too low, it may not be worth your time to file the claim. The realistic probability of recovering damages should play a role in your decision to file a claim.
However, one of the positive benefits of filing a wrongful death claim in Virginia is the compensation policies. Wrongful death claims often warrant significant financial compensation, which means these claims are almost always worth investigating. In a wrongful death claim, you may be able to receive compensation for the following:
- Income loss and services offered by deceased
- Cost of medical care, funeral expenses, and burial expenses
- Mental anguish, emotional pain, and other non-economic damages
Other damages you may be eligible to claim include personal property damage, future damages, punitive damages, and compensatory damages.
Income Loss and Services Offered by Deceased
You may be able to claim compensation for the deceased's lost wages and future wages. Accidents that lead to wrongful death claims do not always cause immediate death. Often, the decedent — the deceased person who was the victim of the wrongful death — may miss time at work due to their injuries before passing. Additionally, the court may compensate the deceased's loved ones for lost future wages their loved one would have earned. This compensation can be divided into two categories:
- Lost wages
- Lost future wages
Cost of Medical Care, Funeral Expenses, and Burial Expenses
You may be able to receive compensation for the cost of medical care that accumulated due to the decedent's injuries. Additionally, you may be eligible for compensation for their funeral and burial expenses.
Receiving compensation for the deceased's medical care can be a significant comfort. In some cases, medical bills exceed the deceased's insurance. The decedent's loved ones may be left to bear the burden of their loss while struggling to pay exorbitant medical bills.
Examples of medical care that may be compensated in a wrongful death case include:
- Hospital bills
- Laboratory fees
- Pain management treatment
- Physical therapy bills
- Prescription medication
- Surgery costs
Mental Anguish, Emotional Pain, and Other Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are damages that relate to physical and emotional pain and suffering. It is more difficult to attach a dollar amount to these damages than to economic damages, which often come with a receipt. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of society
Unlike some states, Virginia does not cap non-economic damages. This means there is no limit to the amount of non-economic damages you may be awarded in your claim.
Who Can Stand in a Wrongful Death Case
Standing is a condition in court that dictates who has the right to bring a claim in a certain scenario. Only those with standing can file their claim before a court.
In most situations, the only party with standing in the above scenario would be the children of the deceased. Generally, those with standing are often the same parties expected to be beneficiaries of the deceased's will or those who will inherit the deceased's estate.
Virginia law dictates who has the standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit. It also dictates the priority of those with standing. The first priority goes to the surviving spouse. If no surviving spouse exists, then the right of claim passes to the children. After the children, the deceased's parents would be next in line, along with their siblings and dependent relatives.
Trust an Experienced Virginia Lawyer for Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If your loved one has been the victim of wrongful death, you may be eligible to bring a claim in civil court to receive just compensation for your losses. Although you may be grieving, you do not have unlimited time to file your claim. An experienced Virginia wrongful death claim lawyer can help. Contact the wrongful death attorneys at the Commonwealth Law Group to get your questions answered and find out how they can help.
If you have been injured at work or through the negligence of another individual or entity, contact us at (804) 999-9999 or or use the form below to connect with our legal team. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.