No one should have to experience the pain of losing a loved one because of another person’s negligence. When this happens, survivors may have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. These lawsuits are similar to personal injury claims and can help compensate families for the grief and financial challenges they will face. Wrongful death lawsuits are complicated, and you need an aggressive Alexandria personal injury attorney who is ready to hold the defendant accountable. Count on Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP to be there for you and your family.
How Do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Work?
You can think of a wrongful death lawsuit as being essentially a personal injury claim, with the main difference being that the injury victim died. Negligent acts or omissions that caused the victim to die may form the basis of a wrongful death claim.
Whereas the victim in a personal injury would file the lawsuit, a personal representative of the deceased is responsible for filing the wrongful death claim. Statutory beneficiaries, as they are known in Virginia, are family members or dependents who bring these lawsuits. Depending on the circumstances, these individuals include the victim’s surviving:
- A relative who was dependent on the deceased for support and resided in the same household
If there are no surviving family members, then anyone who would be allowed to inherit from the deceased victim’s estate under Virginia’s intestacy laws can file the wrongful death lawsuit.
How To Prove A Wrongful Death Claim
The personal representative has the burden of proving a wrongful death claim. Since these lawsuits are similar to personal injury claims, the elements are similar as well. The plaintiff has to therefore show the following:
- Duty. The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased victim.
- Breach. By some act or omission, the defendant breached this duty.
- Cause. The breach caused the victim’s death.
- Damages. The surviving family members suffered damages as a result.
What Are The Damages In A Wrongful Death Claim?
The death of a loved one causes personal as well as financial burdens for the surviving family members. A wrongful death claim allows those survivors to recover certain damages if the death was the result of negligence. Every wrongful death claim is different and with different types of damages. Possible ones include:
- Medical bills. Before the victim died, he or she probably incurred significant medical bills from attempts to treat the injury or disease caused by the defendant’s negligence. Those costs include hospitalization, surgeries, and much more. Had the victim lived, that person could have sued to recover these damages; the wrongful death claim allows the eligible survivors to do so.
- Funeral and burial costs. Funerals, burials, and related expenses can be significant. The party that was responsible for the defendant’s death should also be responsible for paying these expenses.
- Lost wages. If the deceased victim worked, his or her death will mean the loss of an income earner. That loss may lead to financial struggles for the family. Lost wages and benefits can be recoverable in a wrongful death claim.
- Mental anguish and emotional distress. These are non-economic damages available to the surviving family members. Included in these damages are loss of companionship, comfort, society, guidance, advice, and the kindly offices of the deceased.
- Punitive damages. Particularly wrongful or willful misconduct that caused the victim’s death could form the basis of punitive damages. Not all wrongful death claims are eligible for these.
Because wrongful death claims resemble personal injury lawsuits, they involve many of the same types of injuries and accidents. Some examples are:
- Car and truck accidents, including those caused by drunk driving, texting while driving, speeding, and other irresponsible behaviors
- Premises liability accidents, which involve hazards on someone else’s business or personal property and the owner’s failure to fix or warn visitors about them
- Medical malpractice, which covers a wide range of cases in which the doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional failed to follow the applicable standard of care
- Dangerous and defective drugs, including those which immediately cause death or which cause injury that later results in death
- Nursing home neglect and abuse, involving facilities that failed to take proper steps to keep their patients safe and healthy
- Defective consumer products, which are the fault of negligent product manufacturers, designers, and retailers
- Dog bites and other animal attacks, which cause numerous deaths every year, including children
- Criminal actions, like shootings and assaults, caused by a property owner’s failure to provide adequate security
What Can An Attorney Do For Me?
An experienced wrongful death attorney doesn’t just know Virginia’s wrongful death laws. Your attorney should understand the value of the wrongful death claim. The damages available in your case will be different from that of another case, but a skilled attorney will consider the extent of your losses and determine an appropriate dollar figure to demand.
Many of these cases are submitted to mediation and other out-of-court negotiations. The right attorney, therefore, knows how to participate in mediation and consider offers from the defendant’s insurance company. Our firm has handled numerous wrongful death claims, and we understand how to both negotiate and litigate them.
Contact Our Alexandria Wrongful Death Attorney
If you lost a loved one because of another person’s irresponsible actions, an Alexandria wrongful death attorney can help you explore your legal options. The team at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP is ready to talk to you today. Give us a call to schedule your consultation.