Losing a loved one is tragic under any circumstances, but the devastation is even more extreme when someone close to you dies in an accident. Unfortunately, statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that unintentional fatalities are common. Every year, around 201,000 people are killed in accidents, putting these incidents in the Number 4 spot when it comes to cause of death rankings. Falls, car crashes, and other motor vehicle collisions are the most common reasons behind these fatalities.
Regardless of the specific causes, deadly accidents are usually the result of negligence. Virginia wrongful death laws cover these cases, so surviving family members may qualify to recover compensation. Because the legal concepts are complicated, trust a Winchester wrongful death lawyer for assistance. It is also helpful to review some basic facts about your rights.
1. Survivors Who are Eligible to Recover Damages
The statute lists many different relatives that may qualify for compensation in a wrongful death case, starting with the surviving spouse and children of the deceased victim. Parents may obtain damages if they received support or services from the victim within 12 months prior to the fatal accident. Siblings and further distant relatives could be eligible, but only if none of the other potential beneficiaries exists AND they relied on the deceased for support.
2. The Personal Representative Must Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim
While the beneficiaries are in the position to recover damages, it is the decedent’s personal representative who has the standing to take legal action. This may be someone who was named as the executor in the deceased victim’s will or an individual appointed by a probate court in a case where there is no will. Under Virginia laws on intestate estates, an heir can act as a personal representative. Often, the probate court will appoint a surviving spouse or adult child.
3. Damages for Qualifying Survivors
A wrongful death case focuses on how the decedent’s accidental death affects surviving family members, so monetary damages aim to compensate them for their losses. The statute allows recovery for:
- Grief, sorrow, and mental anguish;
- Loss of companionship, love, comfort and guidance the deceased would have offered;
- Amounts related to the income, financial support, and related services the decedent would have provided;
- Expenses related to the deceased person’s final medical bills for the injury that resulted in death; and
- Funeral and burial costs.
4. Time Restrictions on Virginia Wrongful Death Cases
As with other personal injury matters, there is a statute of limitations after a fatal accident. You must file a lawsuit within two years after the person’s death, or you will be forever barred from recovering damages.
Consult with a Winchester Wrongful Death Attorney to Learn More
These facts about your legal options after a fatal accident are useful, but you should make it a priority to retain experienced counsel for help with a Virginia wrongful death claim. For additional details on how this applies to your unique circumstances, please contact the Correll Law Firm. You can call 540-535-2005 or visit us online to set up a no-cost case evaluation.