Virginia Beach Wrongful Death Lawyer
The loss of a loved one can have a devastating impact on surviving family members, especially when their death was not the result of a natural cause but due to the negligence of another party.
If a loved one’s death was caused by the negligence or careless actions of another person or a company, the decedent’s family members could pursue a lawsuit for wrongful death. A wrongful death suit can recover compensation for any medical bills caused by the at-fault person, funeral costs, and the long-term consequences of the decedent’s loss on surviving family members.
A Virginia Beach wrongful death lawyer can help families gather the necessary evidence and compile the documentation to pursue a claim. We at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers can get information to answer your questions about how and why the tragedy occurred. A skilled personal injury lawyer can evaluate the effect of the death on family members’ lives and demand the appropriate compensation in settlement negotiations or in court.
When Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Appropriate?
VA Code §8.01-50 states that a wrongful death claim can be brought whenever the neglect or intentional actions of a party caused a death in a situation that would have otherwise given rise to a personal injury lawsuit if the person had lived. In other words, a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought by certain relatives to recover compensation in the place of the decedent who could have brought a personal injury lawsuit had they lived.
The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, or those filing the wrongful death suit on behalf of the decedent’s family, to show that the defendant caused the death by his negligent actions.
For example, if a wrongful death lawsuit is based on a pedestrian accident, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant driver acted negligently, for example when a pedestrian is run over in a crosswalk. The plaintiff will have to show that the defendant had a duty not to harm the decedent, that the defendant failed in this duty, and this caused the plaintiff’s death.
In one of our more recent cases, a man driving a van was struck by a commercial truck. The force of the truck caused the man to be ejected from his van, killing him upon impact. The family of the deceased contacted Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyer to help them take legal action against the truck driver who was responsible for their loved one’s death. Our attorneys were able to discover that the trucker did not have a valid CDL medical certificate and suffered from sleep apnea, making it more likely that this driver would fall asleep behind the wheel. Our team was also able to discover hours of service violations, which created an additional risk of the trucker falling asleep while operating his vehicle. In the end, our team was able to settle the claim for $1.5 million.
A plaintiff in Virginia must file their wrongful death claim within the two-year statute of limitations. This time period generally starts from the date of the death caused by the accident.
Types of Losses in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The money from a wrongful death claim goes to specific relatives who are determined by the law. The first group is surviving spouses (husband and wife) and children. If there are no family members in the first group, the money goes to others, such as parents (mother and father) and brothers and sisters.
The total damages suffered by the surviving family members in a wrongful death lawsuit can be difficult to measure. This is because some losses endured by a family may not be financial in nature.
VA Code §8.01-52 states that a jury can award damages it they deems are “fair and just.” In addition to economic damages such as loss of the decedent’s financial contribution to the household and funeral costs, these may include:
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of guidance and comfort
- Loss of advice
- Mental anguish to the surviving family
Punitive damages may also be awarded in some cases. These are meant to punish especially malicious behavior of the defendant, such as drunken driving. A Virginia Beach wrongful death lawyer may have to hire an economic expert to determine the value of their losses caused by a person’s wrongful death.
When is a Wrongful Death Case Complete?
In Virginia, wrongful death settlements have to be approved by the court before a settlement is finalized. Often, the settlement hearing in a wrongful death case is an uncontested hearing in which the insurance company has agreed to pay a certain amount of money that the family and the personal representative have approved. This agreement also specifies how compensation will be divided among the beneficiaries of the estate.
In other situations, there is a dispute among family members about who should be entitled to settlement proceeds and at what amount. In these cases, the court has to help figure out what is a fair division among beneficiaries.
At a settlement hearing, attorneys present to the court a division that they think is reasonable and fair given the circumstances of the case. As long as it seems reasonable and fair to the judge, she can approve the settlement. The end of any wrongful death case is this approval by the court.
Consult with a Virginia Beach Wrongful Death Attorney
Losing a loved one unexpectedly can throw a family into financial and emotional stress. Whenever death is caused by the unavoidable, negligent actions of another individual or a company, the surviving family members of the decedent have the right to demand compensation.
If your loved one died because of the actions of another, a Virginia Beach wrongful death lawyer could help you and your family investigate and pursue a lawsuit against the at-fault party. Compassionate lawyers at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyer could work to take the legal burden off your shoulders and will work to pursue an award of damages that fairly compensates your family. Contact an attorney in Virginia Beach today to discuss your legal rights and options.