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Virginia Wrongful Death Lawyer

 The untimely death of a loved one can leave survivors facing significant emotional and financial losses. If your loved one’s death resulted from another person’s negligence, a Virginia wrongful death lawyer at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers can help you recover compensation for funeral and burial expenses, mental anguish, and more. We have recovered millions in damages for our clients—let us put this experience to work for you. We serve clients throughout Coastal Virginia and have 9 office locations, including Virginia Beach and Newport News.

 Wrongful death claims arise when the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of a person or entity cause another person’s death. In such cases, surviving loved ones have the right to seek compensation for the damages they have suffered from their loss.

If you believe you have grounds for a wrongful death claim, Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers can help you determine the best course of action. Our Virginia wrongful death lawyers can guide you through the entire legal process in pursuit of the justice, closure, and compensation you deserve. 

Experienced & Compassionate Wrongful Death Lawyers from Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers

At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we have more than 120 years of combined experience standing up for the rights of injury victims and their families. This background has earned us a reputation as The Car Crash Experts. Whether your loved one’s death arose from a car accident, a slip and fall, or something else entirely, we can help you seek maximum compensation for your loss.

Countless clients throughout Hampton Roads and beyond have trusted us to handle their most sensitive and personal legal matters. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • We’re nationally recognized as Super Lawyers, Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Lawyers of Distinction, and Top Lawyers of Coastal Virginia.
  • Our initial consultations are free, and there’s no fee unless we win.
  • We get results and have recovered millions of dollars for thousands of victims, including the largest reported recovery in Virginia for a car accident victim in 2020.
  • All we do is personal injury, and we never represent insurance companies.
  • There’s no need to visit our office—we can come to you at your home or hospital.

Take a look at this video to hear attorney Griffin O’Hanlon explain more about our firm’s role in supporting you through your wrongful death case.

Wrongful Death Laws in Virginia

Virginia Code § 8.01-50 defines “wrongful death” as a death “caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of any person or corporation.” It also states that the circumstances must be such that they would have given rise to a personal injury action by the victim if that individual had survived the injuries.

It is important to understand that wrongful death cases are different from criminal homicide cases. Wrongful death cases may arise from criminal homicide, but they are a separate legal action handled by the civil court system.

The burden of proof in a civil wrongful death case is typically lower than that of criminal cases, requiring the plaintiff to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s actions or negligence caused the death. Wrongful death cases focus on seeking compensation for survivors, while criminal homicide cases focus on punishing the defendant and protecting society from further harm.

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Virginia

The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases sets a strict time limit for filing a lawsuit. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is normally two years under Virginia Code § 8.01-244.

In most cases, the countdown starts on the date of the victim’s death. However, Virginia recognizes the “discovery rule” if the cause of death or the negligence that led to it is not immediately apparent. In “discovery rule” cases, the two-year countdown may begin when the cause of death or negligence is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.

If you do not file your claim before the statute of limitations runs out, you can lose your chance to recover compensation, so timely action is essential. It is crucial to promptly contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Virginia if you believe you have a valid case. An attorney can evaluate the specific circumstances of your case, determine the applicable statute of limitations, and timely file your lawsuit.

Types of Losses in a Wrongful Death Case

While a wrongful death claim can be a vital tool in obtaining a sense of justice and closure, the primary goal of legal action is to compensate the victim’s surviving loved ones for their losses. These losses typically fall under two categories: economic and non-economic damages. In some cases, the court also may award punitive damages.

Economic Damages 

Economic damages represent the quantifiable financial losses or expenses associated with the victim’s death. Common examples include:

  • Medical expenses: These include any medical bills or expenses related to the treatment of the deceased’s injuries before their death.
  • Funeral and burial costs: These are the expenses associated with the deceased’s funeral, burial, or cremation.
  • Loss of financial support: This includes the income, financial support, or contributions the deceased would have provided to their family had they not passed away. These economic losses may be calculated based on the deceased’s earning capacity, occupation, and other factors.
  • Lost benefits: This includes the value of any lost benefits, such as health insurance, pension, or retirement benefits, that the deceased would have provided to their dependents.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are the intangible and non-financial losses that result from the victim’s death. These may include:

  • Pain and suffering: These damages compensate for physical and emotional pain and suffering the deceased endured before their death.
  • Loss of companionship: This includes compensation for the loss of companionship, love, guidance, and emotional support the deceased previously provided.
  • Mental anguish: These are damages for the emotional distress and mental anguish resulting from the loss of the deceased.

Punitive Damages

In rare cases of extreme negligence, recklessness, or intentional harm, the court may award punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the responsible party and deter similar behavior in the future.

What Incidents Can Lead To Wrongful Death Cases?

Various types of situations can give rise to a wrongful death case. Common examples include:

  • Car accidents: Reckless or negligent driving behaviors, such as speeding, driving under the influence, or distracted driving, can cause fatal car accidents.
  • Truck accidents: Given the weight and size of commercial trucks, accidents involving these vehicles are more likely to result in fatalities.
  • Motorcycle accidents: Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to severe injuries and death if a collision occurs.
  • Pedestrian accidents: Pedestrians struck by vehicles lack the protection that motor vehicle drivers have in an accident, making death a common outcome of pedestrian accidents.
  • Premises liability: Property owners may be held liable if a death occurs on their property due to unsafe conditions, including slippery surfaces, inadequate security, or structural defects.

These are just a few examples of the types of wrongful death cases we handle at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers. If your loved one’s death involves a different situation, reach out to us to find out if we can help. 

What To Do After an Accident Leading To Wrongful Death

Experiencing the loss of a loved one in an accident is a devastating and emotionally challenging situation. While one should take time to grieve and process the loss, there are also practical steps to consider, especially if you believe the accident resulted from someone else’s negligence and may qualify as a wrongful death case. If possible, try to do the following:

  • Preserve evidence: If you can visit the accident scene, do so as soon as possible. If it is safe and appropriate, take photos and videos of the scene, including vehicle positions, road conditions, and other visible evidence. Collect contact information from any witnesses who may have observed the accident.
  • Contact the insurance company: Notify your loved one’s insurance company of the accident and the resulting death. However, refrain from discussing details or accepting settlements without first getting legal advice.
  • Document expenses: Keep detailed records of all expenses, including medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, property damage repair estimates, and any other costs you or your loved one incurred from the incident.
  • Gather important documents: Collect any documents related to the accident, including the death certificate, medical records, the police report, and applicable insurance policies.
  • Establish the deceased’s financial status: Gather information about your loved one’s financial situation, including bank accounts, investments, debts, employment benefits, and any existing wills or estate planning documents.
  • Consult with an attorney: Seek legal counsel from an experienced wrongful death attorney. A Virginia wrongful death attorney can help you determine if you have a valid case and guide you through your next steps.

Remember that if an insurance company contacts you after the accident, you do not have to speak with them. Without legal representation, you may say something that weakens your case. You also have the right to turn down any settlement offers. An initial settlement offer will often be significantly less than your case is worth. Instead of dealing with the insurance company on your own, refer all of the insurer’s requests or offers to your Virginia wrongful death lawyer. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Virginia?

Only certain people are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased person. While other states allow surviving family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit, Virginia only permits the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate to file suit. Also known as an executor or administrator, this is the person appointed by the court or by the deceased’s will to administer the deceased person’s estate.

Virginia law makes an exception for wrongful death cases involving the death of a fetus. If a fetus dies due to another person or entity’s wrongful act, neglect, or default, the fetus’s mother may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

These limits apply only to the act of filing the lawsuit. In most Virginia wrongful death cases, the personal representative must file the lawsuit, but the damages will go to the deceased’s statutory beneficiaries as specified under Virginia Code § 8.01-53.

Priority goes to the deceased’s surviving spouse and children. If the deceased’s child is deceased, their grandchildren may also be considered statutory beneficiaries. If the deceased has no surviving spouse, child, or grandchild, the deceased’s surviving parents and siblings may receive damages alongside any relative who lived with and depended on the deceased.

If none of these people survive the deceased, the statutory beneficiary may be any surviving family member who may inherit the deceased’s estate according to Virginia’s intestate succession laws.

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

To succeed in a wrongful death claim, you will need to establish several key elements that demonstrate the defendant’s negligence:

  • Duty of care: You must show the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person. A duty of care is a legal obligation to act reasonably and prudently to avoid causing harm to others. The specific duty of care can vary depending on the circumstances and the parties’ relationship. For example, a driver has a duty of care to follow traffic laws and drive safely to avoid harming others on the road.
  • Breach of duty: You must show the defendant’s actions or omissions did not comply with their duty of care. To prove this element, you must show that a reasonable person would have acted differently under the same or similar circumstances.
  • Causation: This requires you to show a direct causal connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and the death of your loved one.
  • Damages: You will need to prove the death resulted in damages, which can include economic or non-economic losses.

You must have compelling evidence demonstrating that your case satisfies these elements. Evidence that may help prove a wrongful death claim includes eyewitness testimony, expert witnesses, medical records, photos, police reports, electronic records, and maintenance and inspection records.

If the death resulted from a motor vehicle collision, our Virginia wrongful death attorneys can also help you find video proof of the crash from Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers’ Crash Cam.

How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help You

While the law does not require hiring an attorney to pursue a wrongful death claim, having one of our skilled lawyers on your side can greatly improve your chances of obtaining maximum compensation. We also can remove the burden of navigating the legal system off your shoulders so you can dedicate more time and energy to grieving and rebuilding your life after your loss.

Our Virginia wrongful death lawyers provide an objective perspective on your case. We can help you make informed decisions, guide you through the legal process, and provide an expert perspective during a trying time.

We also have access to a network of experts, investigators, and resources that can strengthen your case. Our team can consult with medical professionals, accident reconstruction specialists, economists, and others who can provide critical insights when proving liability and damages.

After your attorney from Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers investigates the accident, gathers evidence, and develops a strong argument in your favor, they will present the case to the other party or their insurance company. They will work diligently to negotiate a fair settlement without involving the courts. However, if the other party refuses to offer a settlement that appropriately compensates you for your loss, your attorney will not hesitate to bring your case to trial. 

Rely on a Virginia Wrongful Death Lawyer from Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers

We recognize that no amount of money can truly make up for the untimely death of a loved one. However, a wrongful death claim can empower your family with the resources needed to begin the healing process.

If you believe another person’s or entity’s negligence caused your loved one’s death, Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers is here to help. We have recovered millions in financial settlements and jury awards, and we can guide you through this difficult time as we have done for so many others throughout Virginia.

Our law firm has multiple locations throughout Hampton Roads:

If you are ready to seek compensation from the parties responsible for the loss of your loved one, we invite you to contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you pay nothing until we win, and there are no out-of-pocket costs to you.

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