When an accident happens that the victim could have made a personal injury claim, but died before they could, this is called wrongful death. Someone else has to file the claim on their behalf, and our wrongful death lawyers can help you do that.
The laws around wrongful death can be tricky, and we know how hard it can be to think about compensation when you’re grieving. Pendleton Law’s compassionate wrongful death lawyers can take care of the legal proceedings for you. Here are some things you need to know before calling.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia?
There are only two kinds of people who can file a wrongful death claim in Virginia. The first is the personal representative (or executor) of the deceased. If the victim didn’t name one in their will, you may need to go through probate court to get yourself appointed before you file your claim.
The other person who can file is a mother who lost their fetus because of someone else’s wrongful act. For example, if a mother loses their fetus because of medical malpractice, she would have standing to sue for wrongful death on behalf of her unborn baby.
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Who Gets the Compensation in a Wrongful Death Case?
The benefits could be split among multiple people. The first is the estate of the deceased. For example, the cost of final expenses is usually paid out of the estate. The second is the “statutory beneficiaries” related to the victim.
There is an order of who gets the compensation under Virginia Law. The order goes:
- Surviving spouse and children (or grandchildren if the children are deceased)
- If none exist, the surviving parents and siblings.
- If none of those exist, any relative who was dependent on and shared a home with the deceased.
- If none of these apply, any surviving member according to the order of inheritance in Virginia’s intestacy laws.
In most wrongful death situations, the people who get the compensation will fall under the first two categories. The court will decide which damages get awarded to the estate and which get awarded to statutory beneficiaries.
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What Damages Could You Receive?
First, you could receive economic damages for things like the final medical expenses and reasonable funeral and burial expenses. These will probably get paid directly to the estate if you win your case. Then there are a range of non-economic damages that the survivors could receive, like:
- Loss of the deceased’s comfort, guidance, and advice (loss of consortium)
- Sorrow and mental anguish
- Lost income and benefits that the deceased might have earned had they lived
- Loss of the deceased’s protection, care, and assistance in running the household
You could also receive punitive damages if the responsible party was especially negligent and showed “a conscious disregard for the safety of others.” This is extra money awarded to victims by the court as a punishment for bad behavior.
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What Role Does Insurance Play in Wrongful Death Claims?
Insurance can cover wrongful death claims, but getting them to pay without a wrongful death attorney on your side is tough. They know they could owe you a lot of money and will try to pay you less.
Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance companies to get a fair settlement before trial. Most cases end up settling, but a small number go to court. Settling early might get you less money, but going to court could leave you with nothing.
The advice of a wrongful death lawyer is essential in these situations. The insurance company will know you’re grieving and may try to take advantage of your mental state. Hire one of our attorneys instead, and let us handle the negotiations.
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How Long Do You Have to File?
We know how hard it is to even consider filing a wrongful death claim while you’re grieving, but there is a deadline to file claims. You have two years from the death of the deceased to file before you violate the statute of limitations in Virginia.
If you pass this deadline, you’re out of luck for getting compensation. Sometimes an insurance company may use delaying tactics to push your case over the deadline. Your best counter is to work with a wrongful death attorney.
If you’re unsure whether you should file a claim, it does no harm to speak with a wrongful death lawyer in a free consultation. You’ll learn your legal options, and you can make a better decision about whether to proceed with a lawsuit.
Seek Help with Your Wrongful Death Claim
Don’t face your tragedy alone. Find out if you’re owed compensation after your loved one’s wrongful death by calling Pendleton Law for a free case evaluation and consultation. Our compassionate lawyers are ready to help you. Contact us today, and let us help you with the financial burden you’re facing.
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