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4 FAQs About Wrongful Death in Virginia


If a third party is responsible for a loved one’s death in Virginia, then it is possible for the surviving family members to file a wrongful death action. If the surviving family members prove their case in court, then they may be able to recover financial compensation for their anguish and related costs. To gain a full appreciation of this legal issue, the following sections will explore four frequently asked questions about wrongful death in Virginia.

  1. What is a Wrongful Death Action?

Code of Virginia Section 8.01-50 defines wrongful death as an unjustified act, neglect or default that leads to a person’s death. It is possible for a person, corporation, ship, or vessel to cause a wrongful death. In such cases, the deceased person’s surviving family members may file a wrongful death action to recover damages in court.

Virginia law ties wrongful death actions to personal injury law. Section 8.01-50 requires the existence of a valid personal injury claim in order to pursue a wrongful death action. Stated otherwise, if the deceased person had survived, they would have been able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit and recover for their injuries. Instead, that person died from their injuries. Consequently, surviving family members may file a wrongful death action on behalf of the deceased person.

  1. Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action?

As underlined in Code of Virginia Section 8.01-53, only certain family members are allowed to file a wrongful death action on behalf of the deceased person. Often referred to legally as statutory beneficiaries, the people eligible to file a wrongful death action include the:

  • Spouse, children or grandchildren of the deceased person;
  • Parents and siblings of the deceased person;
  • Relatives who lived with and were dependent on the deceased person; and
  • Other relatives entitled to inherit from the deceased person under Virginia law.
  1. Which Damages Apply to Wrongful Death Actions?

As outlined in Code of Virginia Section 8.01-52, there are several types of damages available in wrongful death actions. In most cases, the surviving family members may recover compensation for:

  • Emotional pain, loss, and trauma;
  • Lost income or support;
  • Medical fees and hospital bills; and
  • Reasonable funeral expenses.

On a related note, it is possible for the surviving family members to recover punitive damages as well. But punitive damages are only available in cases where there was recklessly dangerous behavior.

  1. What is the Time Limit for Wrongful Death Actions?

Code of Virginia Section 8.01-244 requires surviving family members to file within two years. After the two-year threshold expires, then the surviving family members will not be able to file a wrongful death action in most cases.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about wrongful death in Virginia, it can be particularly helpful to reach out to an adept personal injury attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP have proven capabilities in many aspects of personal injury law, including wrongful death actions. If you need legal help with wrongful death or other areas of personal injury law, contact us today for a free initial consultation.



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