A Closer Look at Wrongful Death Damages

The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to obtain compensation from the person responsible for your loved one’s death. But how much can you receive? Virginia’s law is complex, and you should reach out to Correll Law Firm for more information. We have the experience you need to fully analyze a claim, including possible compensation.

Va. Code § 8.01-52 is the relevant law. According to its language, the jury in a lawsuit can award any damages that are “fair and just.” That’s a vague standard, admittedly. Helpfully, the law also identifies different categories of damages, which our Winchester wrongful death lawyer examines more closely below.

Sorrow and Mental Anguish

This is the first category. It includes the loss of:

  • Comfort
  • Guidance
  • Advice
  • Companionship
  • Society

Family members are rocked by the death of their loved one. As the years roll by, they begin to realize all they have missed out because a spouse or parent has passed.

One question is how much you can receive for this type of loss, and the answer is that it depends. Five people will value the loss of comfort differently. A good lawyer will help present evidence showing the depth of your sorrow and grief. Ultimately, it’s up to the jury to decide, although we have a general sense of what’s possible.

Loss of Income

Imagine that a young father dies. He leaves his spouse and children without his love and affection. They also lose out on the income he would have made. Unlike mental anguish, lost income is something we have an easier time calculating.

The following factors go into the analysis:

  • Your loved one’s age and health—someone close to retirement will make less.
  • Their profession—some jobs pay more on average than other jobs.
  • Their income and benefits –this is the starting point for how much your loved one could have made.
  • Education and work experience—workers with more education tend to make more and get bigger raises.

A simple way to calculate lost income would be to take your loved one’s current income and multiply by the number of years they have left before retirement. But there are other considerations, such as what raises and/or promotions they might have received.

We sometimes use expert witnesses to help us establish lost income. A forensic accountant or other expert can help us calculate how much your loved one’s income would have probably risen in the coming decades.

Loss of Services and Care

Virginia law also says that family members can receive compensation for loss of protection, care, assistance, and services provided by the deceased.

Many of us rely on our family members for:

  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Cooking
  • Transportation
  • Child care
  • Elder care
  • Home maintenance

When they die, you need to get someone else to do these tasks for you. Virginia law allows you to seek a sum of money to cover the financial loss.

How much will you receive? It will depend. We look at the present market value of services, such as laundry. And then we calculate how many years you might have received these services. A forensic accountant can help us with this calculation as well.

Medical Care to Treat Your Loved One

After an accident, your family member was probably rushed to the hospital. You can seek compensation to cover this medical care. Helpfully, this is one of the least controversial categories of damages because we have medical bills from the hospital to establish how much it cost.

The court can apportion medical expense damages among the providers who treated your loved one.

Reasonable Funeral Expenses

You can also seek damages for a funeral, which could represent a considerable expense. The typical funeral in Virginia is a little over $7,000. Some funerals can get very elaborate, so you are limited to “reasonable” expenses to bury your loved one.

Punitive Damages

Some of our clients can seek punitive damages. These are damages with the goal of punishing the defendant for killing your loved one. The other damages listed above are compensatory in nature.

You can only seek punitive damages if the defendant acted willfully or wantonly or with reckless disregard for other people’s safety. For example, someone who fires a gun into a crowd might not have intended to hit your husband. But that’s the type of reckless act which would deserve punitive damages.

Virginia does cap punitive damages at $350,000, and you can only get them if the defendant is still alive. These are important limitations.

What Limits Your Wrongful Death Recovery?

Now that you know what category of damages you can receive compensation for, we need to discuss practical limitations on your ability to recover. It’s one thing to have a right to request $3 million—it’s quite another to actually get that amount from a defendant.

Imagine your wife is a lawyer who is accidentally killed at age 35. As her husband, you could reasonably expect her to work for another 30 years, so you are possibly losing out on millions in income. What’s more, you also suffer loss of your marital relationship, which a jury might believe is also worth millions.

Can you receive several million? Probably not. A key limitation is whether the defendant has the funds or an insurance policy that can pay compensation. If a driver struck your wife, then the only pot of money could be the driver’s insurance policy.

Many wrongful death cases settle, and we always need to consider limitations on the defendant’s ability to pay. Corporations or businesses with liability coverage can often pay more, so it all depends on the facts of your case.

Contact Our Winchester Wrongful Death Lawyer

Correll Law Firm is always available to lend a compassionate ear to anyone struggling with the tragic death of a loved one. Let us investigate whether you have the right to bring a wrongful death claim. We can begin working right away if you hire us to represent you. Call our firm to schedule a meeting with a compassionate Winchester lawyer.