Losing a loved one is always devastating. But it’s especially tragic when the death could have been avoided. While personal injury lawsuits exist to help victims of negligence, wrongful death claims are there in the event the injuries prove fatal. These claims are intended to compensate families for the loss of their loved ones and ease some of the burdens they will face.
Filing a wrongful death claim is no easy matter, however, and defendants and their insurance companies are guaranteed to fight back. So who’s there to fight for you? Turn to Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP.
What is a wrongful death lawsuit in Loudoun County?
Wrongful death lawsuits are like extensions of personal injury claims. They involve negligent actions that resulted in the victim’s death. In other words, had the victim lived, the facts of the case would likely have supported a personal injury claim.
A wrongful death claim is filed by a personal representative of the deceased victim. Family members or dependents, known in Virginia as statutory beneficiaries, are allowed to bring these lawsuits. These individuals may include, depending on the circumstances, the victim’s surviving:
- A relative who was dependent on the deceased for support and resided in the same household
In some cases, there are no surviving family members. However, anyone who would have been able to inherit from the deceased victim’s estate under Virginia’s intestacy laws can still bring a wrongful death claim.
What are the elements of a wrongful death claim in Loudoun County?
The burden of proving a wrongful death claim rests with the personal representative. As mentioned above, these lawsuits are similar to personal injury lawsuits, with the major difference being that the injuries caused the victim’s death. The plaintiff, therefore, will need to establish the following:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased
- The defendant breached the duty of care
- This breach was the direct cause of the victim’s death
- The surviving family members suffered damages
Possible Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
Losing a loved one causes personal and economic burdens for the surviving family members. Wrongful death claims allow those survivors to recover damages when the death was the result of negligence. Depending on the facts in the case, those damages may include the following:
- Medical expenses. Before the victim’s death, he or she likely incurred medical costs in the form of hospitalization, surgeries, and treatment for injuries. These expenses are recoverable just as they would have been had the victim lived.
- Funeral and burial expenses. Funerals, burial costs, and related expenses can be significant. These costs should be the responsibility of the liable party, not the family.
- Lost wages. The death of a loved one may mean the death of an income earner. This, in turn, can cause serious financial problems for the family. Damages may include the decedent’s lost wages and benefits.
- Mental anguish. Mental anguish is among the personal (non-economic) damages the survivors may recover. Under the law, these are more specifically defined as loss of companionship, comfort, society, guidance, advice, and the kindly offices of the deceased.
- Punitive damages. Not all wrongful death lawsuits are eligible for punitive damages. These are designed to punish the wrongful party for willful or wanton conduct resulting in the decedent’s death.
Common Examples Of Wrongful Death Claims
Since wrongful death lawsuits are so similar to personal injury claims, they encompass many of the same types of accidents and injuries. They include:
- Automobile and truck accidents, resulting from speeding, drunk driving, distracted driving, and other types of negligent behavior
- Premises liability accidents, which have to do with dangerous conditions on someone’s property and the owner or occupier’s failure to fix or warn visitors about them
- Medical malpractice, which encompasses a range of cases in which the doctor or other health professional failed to meet the applicable standard of care
- Dangerous and defective drugs, which may either immediately cause death or cause serious injury eventually leading to death
- Nursing home neglect and abuse, such as cases in which facilities failed to take reasonable steps to keep patients safe and properly cared for
- Defective consumer products, which are the responsibility of negligent product manufacturers, designers, and retailers
- Dog bites and animal attacks, which cause numerous fatalities every year, including among children
- Criminal actions, such as assaults and shootings, resulting from a property owner’s negligent and inadequate security measures
How can a wrongful death attorney help me?
Your lawyer should, first and foremost, be familiar with Virginia’s wrongful death laws. An experienced attorney also knows how to work a case from start to finish, including the various civil procedure, evidence, and court rules.
Your case may be submitted to mediation, an out-of-court process that allows parties to try to negotiate and settle cases before going to trial. Therefore, your attorney should know how to participate in mediation and consider offers you may receive from the defendant’s insurance company. We’ve handled numerous wrongful death claims and we understand the mechanics of mediating and litigating them.
In any event, it’s important to have a lawyer who knows the value of a wrongful death claim. Every lawsuit is different, and the potential damages can vary wildly from one case to the next. But a knowledgeable attorney will consider the full extent of your losses, and investigate to determine whether other damages may be appropriate.
Our firm has experience handling these types of lawsuits, and we know how to demand the compensation that our clients deserve. We will advise you on the merits of any offers you receive to settle and help you consider whether to accept the offer or proceed to trial.
Contact Our Loudoun County, Virginia Wrongful Death Attorney
No one should have to suffer the loss of a family member because of someone else’s irresponsible actions. That’s why the wrongful death attorneys of Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP fight for victims’ families every day. If you lost a loved one due to another person’s negligence, give us a call today to discuss your legal options.