Losing a loved one is one of the difficult, gut-wrenching traumas anyone can experience. This loss is exacerbated when your loved one is taken from you in a sudden, completely unexpected accident. Unfortunately, many Virginia families have to grapple with this challenge since thousands of people die each year in horrific car crashes on roads and highways throughout the Commonwealth, including I-64, I-264, I-664, and so forth.
If you lost a loved one in an accident that was caused by another driver’s carelessness, you may be able to file a claim in civil court under the Virginia Wrongful Death Act (see Va. Code § 8.01-50, 8.01-244).
Understanding Virginia Wrongful Death Law
The Virginia Wrongful Death Act allows survivors of a decedent to pursue financial damages for the loss of their loved one. Generally, the court appoints an executor, or executrix, to represent the lost loved one’s estate. This individual would be the named party in the wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Amount of Time Available to Take Legal Action
There is a time limit allotted to survivors of deceased to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit known as the “statute of limitations.” This is a fancy legal term for the finite period of time where legal action against the at-fault party is allowed. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the incident. This means that if you fail to file a wrongful death suit within two years of the date of the accident that caused your loved one’s death, you could be prohibited from pursuing financial damages against the at-fault party.
Establishing a Wrongful Death Case
To establish that a wrongful death occurred, there must be evidence that an individual, or entity, owed a duty of care to your loved one and their actions, or lack of action, breached that standard of care. As a proximate result of that action or inaction, the death of your loved one occurred.
Financial Damages That Can Be Pursued
No amount of money can bring your loved one back. Nevertheless, the civil justice system has established the harms that can form the basis for a damages claim in a wrongful death suit. For example, the mental pain, anguish and suffering you and your family endured as a result of the incident. You can also pursue damages for medical expenses and/or funeral expenses. The full list of available damages can be found here: https://vacode.org/8.01-52/.
In addition to compensatory damages, a Virginia courts allow you to pursue punitive damages against the at-fault party. Punitive damages are basically punishment damages. They go above and beyond restitution and are meant to send a signal that the at-fault party’s behavior will not be tolerated. The amount of punitive damages is not limitless. In fact, in Virginia, punitive damages are capped at $350,000. This means that the most money you can recover from a punitive damage claim is $350,000, even if a jury awards you a higher sum.
Contact a Norfolk Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
Losing a loved one is heartbreaking. In these difficult moments, you need a legal advocate who will help take the burden off your shoulders. Emily is here to help. Contact her today to set up a time to talk about what happened and determine the best course of action going forward.