What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

It seems like hardly a week goes by in Lynchburg or Central Virginia without unfortunate news of a fatal car accident.  According to statistics compiled by DMV, 1026 people lost their lives in car accidents on Virginia roadways in 2007, the most since 1990.  Fortunately, the numbers decreased from 2008 thru 2010, but then car accidents began to rise again in 2011 with 764 deaths. 

A wrongful death claim (lawsuit)  in Virginia may be brought when a death is caused by the negligence or wrongful conduct of another. The damages sought in a wrongful death case usually involve one or more of the following types of claims:

1. Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent;

2. Compensation for reasonably expected loss of (i) income of the decedent and (ii) services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent;

3. Expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in death;

4. Reasonable funeral expenses; and

5. Punitive damages may be recovered for willful or wanton conduct, or such recklessness as evinces a conscious disregard for the safety of others.

Who may recover for the wrongful death of another?

In a wrongful death suit, the beneficiaries eligible to receive all or a portion of the damages awarded for distribution shall be fixed (i) at the time the verdict is entered if the jury makes the specification, or (ii) at the time the judgment is rendered if the court specifies the distribution

The damages awarded shall be distributed as follows:

(i) the surviving spouse, children of the deceased and children of any deceased child of the deceased or

(ii) if there be none such, then to the parents, brothers and sisters 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 same household as the decedent or

(iii) if the decedent has left both surviving spouse and parent or parents, but no child or grandchild, the award shall be distributed to the surviving spouse and such parent or parents or

(iv) if there are survivors under clause (i) or clause (iii), the award shall be distributed to those beneficiaries and to any other relative who is primarily dependent on the decedent for support or services and is also a member of the same household as the decedent or

(v) if no survivors exist under clause (i), (ii), (iii), or (iv), the award shall be distributed in the course of descents as provided for in § 64. 1-1. Provided, however, no parent whose parental rights and responsibilities have been terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction or pursuant to a permanent entrustment agreement with a child welfare agency shall be eligible as a beneficiary under this section. A relative is any person related to the decedent by blood, marriage, or adoption and also includes a stepchild of the decedent.

How much compensation does each beneficiary receive?

In a wrongful death suit, the jury may decide how much each beneficiary receives, or if the jury is unable to agree upon or fails to make such distribution, the court shall specify the amount awarded to the beneficiaries.

If you or someone you care about has been involved in a wrongful death accident, please do not hesitate to call our office.