Losing a family member is an unimaginably painful experience, and that loss is magnified when the death results from someone else’s wrongdoing. In these challenging moments, grappling with the legal complexities of Virginia’s wrongful death laws is the last thing you want to do.
At Whitestone Young, PC, our Fairfax wrongful death lawyers understand the emotional turmoil you are going through. In this blog post, we will unravel the complicated rules of Virginia wrongful death claims to answer a critical question: Who gets the money from a wrongful death claim? We hope to provide clarity, peace, and a way forward during these difficult times.
How Does Virginia Law Define a Wrongful Death?
Under Virginia law, a wrongful death is any death caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another person or entity. This definition could encompass many scenarios, from fatal car accidents caused by another driver’s negligence and deaths resulting from medical malpractice to fatalities caused by unsafe conditions on someone else’s property.
The key element of a wrongful death is that it would not have occurred if not for another person’s wrongful behavior or negligence. It’s about holding accountable those whose reckless or careless actions have tragically cut short a life.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia?
State law says only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased did not designate a personal representative in their will or other estate planning documents, the courts can choose someone to fill that role.
Dividing Compensation in a Virginia Wrongful Death Claim
According to Virginia law, the deceased’s surviving spouse is first in line to receive any compensation from a wrongful death claim, followed by their children. If the deceased provided financial support to their parents within 12 months before their death, and if a surviving spouse or children exist, the parents become eligible for compensation. In the absence of a surviving spouse or children, the decedent’s parents, siblings, and any other relative who was reliant on the decedent for support and shared a household with them can all receive the compensation. If the decedent leaves behind both a spouse and parents but no children, compensation from a wrongful death claim is distributed among these parties.
What Compensation Can You Recover in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The Code of Virginia provides that the compensation from a wrongful death claim in Virginia may cover several significant areas of loss and damage. These losses include:
- Loss of the decedent’s income, services, protection, care, and assistance
- Non-economic losses, such as mental anguish or emotional distress
- Medical costs for the decedent’s care, treatment, and hospitalization due to the fatal injury
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
- Punitive damages, which a judge or jury may award if the defendant’s actions were deliberate, reckless, or demonstrated a blatant disregard for the safety of others
Are There Caps on Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim?
In a Virginia wrongful death claim, there are generally no maximum limits on the amount of compensation for most types of damages. This means your compensation for financial losses, mental anguish, medical expenses, and funeral costs is based on the case’s specific circumstances. However, punitive damages are subject to a limit of $350,000 under Virginia law. There’s also a separate cap on damages for medical malpractice cases, though the amount changes each year according to a predetermined formula.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney Today
Even though money can never adequately substitute for your loss, our Fairfax wrongful death attorneys will do everything in our power to secure fair compensation for the loss of your loved one. Call Whitestone Young, PC, today at 703-591-0200 or complete our contact form for a confidential consultation.