What is the Virginia Approach to Wrongful Death Actions?
When a person dies due to a third party’s negligent conduct in Virginia, that person’s surviving family members may pursue a wrongful death action in civil court. These actions allow certain family members and other direct relatives to step into the shoes of their loved one and seek legal damages for the untimely death.
Under Virginia law, wrongful death actions are only available in specific situations. Additionally, only certain family members and relatives are eligible to pursue these actions. And the damages available in a wrongful death action have fixed limitations in Virginia.
What is the Definition of a Wrongful Death Action?
The definition of a wrongful death action appears under Code of Virginia Section 8.01-50. Wrongful death actions in Virginia relate to the wrongful act, neglect, or default of a:
- Ship; or
If such a wrongful act, neglect, or default causes the death of a person, then that person’s surviving family members may pursue legal damages in civil court. But these wrongful death actions are only possible if the deceased person would have been able to pursue damages themselves if they had survived the incident.
It is vital to note that Virginia law also allows a natural mother to pursue legal action for the wrongful death of their unborn child. If a third party negligently causes the death of a fetus, then the natural mother may file a wrongful death action.
Who Can Benefit from a Wrongful Death Action?
The list of people eligible to benefit from a wrongful death action appears under Code of Virginia Section 8.01-53. Under this section, the list of people eligible to file a wrongful death include the:
- Spouse, children, or grandchildren of the deceased person;
- Parents or siblings of the deceased person;
- Other dependent relatives of the deceased person who lived in the same home and were related by blood, marriage, or adoption; or
- Other relatives who would be eligible to inherit from the deceased person.
What Kind of Damages are Available for a Wrongful Death Action?
The nature of damages for a wrongful death action appear under Code of Virginia Section 8.01-52. In all cases, a judge or jury may only award fair and just damages in a reasonable fashion. Under this section, the damages available in a wrongful death action include but are not necessarily limited to:
- Pain and suffering, anguish, and sorrow;
- Lack of comfort, companionship, guidance, kindly offices, or society;
- Loss of assistance, care, income, protection, or services;
- Medical bills and fees for care, hospitalization, treatment;
- Funeral costs and expenses; and
- Punitive damages, but only in extremely reckless cases.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you have legal questions about wrongful death actions in Virginia, it can be tremendously valuable to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney. The Leesburg wrongful death lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have built a solid reputation in matters of personal injury law, including wrongful death actions. If you need legal help with personal injury, contact us today for a free initial consultation.