There is no grief out there quite like the grief of losing a loved one. Sometimes, knowing it was due to the carelessness of another person makes it even harder to cope with. If you lost a loved one due to an act of reckless negligence, you may want to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
At Manassas Law Group, we know how heavy a death like this can hit a family. We want to make sure you and your loved ones are financially taken care of while you recover from this hardship. In this post, we answer your wrongful death lawsuit frequently asked questions. If you think you have a wrongful death claim in the Virginia area, give us a call today to see what we can do for you.
What Is A Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death is a claim made on the behalf of a person whose death resulted from an act of negligence. A negligent act refers to a behavior or action that a reasonably careful person wouldn’t do under similar circumstances. It could also be something that a reasonably careful person failed to do that in turn resulted in the death of another.
There are several variations of types of wrongful death lawsuits. Any situation that causes the death of someone through an act of reckless or negligent behavior can fall into a wrongful death claim. Specific instances may include:
- Medical malpractice
- Workplace accidents
- Criminal behavior
- Auto, train, or plane accident
- Product liability
- Negligence during a supervised activity (like drowning, for example)
A wrongful death claim is different from a criminal charge. It is a civil action separate from the state’s prosecution, and it’s motives are different than that of a charge. For a criminal charge, the guilty party faces punishment like probation or prison for his or her actions. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the survivors of the deceased seek compensation from the guilty party in the form of losses and damages.
More often than not, wrongful death lawsuits will follow behind a criminal trial. However, the verdict of one does not determine the verdict of the other. In a wrongful death case, prosecutors may use the same evidence, but they need a lower standard of proof to find someone guilty. So while someone may be innocent for manslaughter, they may still be guilty of causing a wrongful death.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
The settlements that come from a wrongful death suit are often paid out by insurance companies. If the guilty party does not have coverage for this, they themselves will be responsible for the payout. They may also be partially responsible for the payout if they have insurance but the settlement goes over their liability coverage amount.
To determine what the payout will be in a wrongful death lawsuit, the court will take several factors into account. Both economic and noneconomic losses get considered when determining a settlement amount. Economic losses include:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial costs
- Damaged property expenses
- Lost benefits and wages of the deceased
- Total value of household services lost
In some states, the value of the decedent’s total lifetime earning capacity can also get recovered. These economic losses are all factors that are measurable and can be numerically summed up. Noneconomic losses, while still very much a loss, cannot get represented by a number. These include things like:
- Pain and suffering
- Of the family members/loved ones left behind
- Of the victim prior to their moment of death
- Loss of:
- Emotional support
- Goods and services
Some things like medical bills and lost wages may be easier to prove than others. For example, it takes a skilled attorney to prove things like pain and suffering or loss of emotional support. However, the bulk of your settlement money might come from these factors like pain and suffering. That is why it is crucial to have an experienced attorney to represent you and your loved one in court.
Who Gets The Money In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Because it is impossible for the actual victim to recover any compensation, the money from a wrongful death lawsuit goes to the listed relatives of the decedent. The settlement money is generally distributed between surviving family members such as spouses, children, parents, siblings, and so on.
There is often an order for which relatives receive the money. In Virginia, the deceased’s surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren have the initial right to file a claim. If there is no surviving spouse, child, or grandchild, the claim becomes open to any parents, siblings, or dependents of the deceased. This excludes any estranged parents or those who abandoned the victim during their childhood. If no parents, siblings, or other dependents are surviving, the money will go to whoever would inherit the decedent’s estate next.
How Long Does It Take To Settle Wrongful Death Claims?
Every case and trial is different, so there is no way to say for sure how long it might take to settle a wrongful death claim. In some cases, it can take as little as a few months to settle. Generally speaking, though, it might take anywhere from 1 to 4 years.
If your attorney is able to settle your case outside of court, your results will be much quicker. If it gets taken to court, which is sometimes necessary, this will prolongate the process. It all depends on the unique circumstances of your case and the ability of your attorney to negotiate a fair deal.
How To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Virginia’s statute of limitations requires that a wrongful death lawsuit must get filed within two years of the date of death. If you fail to file within that time frame, you may lose your rights to recover any damages or losses at all.
As for who may file the lawsuit, many states require a personal representative to do so. This is someone who oversees the victim’s estate. However, the representative is filing for the benefit of the family, meaning the relatives are still entitled to the compensation. In Virginia, a wrongful death lawsuit doesn’t require a personal representative to file. The Virginia Code states that one or more of the “statutory beneficiaries” may do so. A statutory beneficiary includes family members or dependents of the deceased.
Contact Manassas Law Group Today
If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, let us know. You may have a wrongful death lawsuit on your hands.
The attorneys at The Manassas Law Group are here to fight for your rights. We will help you receive the benefits you deserve. Give us a call at 703-361-8246 or visit our website to arrange a consultation.