Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury Claims and Wrongful Death Cases
In our FAQ, the experienced personal injury attorneys with Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC take the time to answer common questions and concerns from injured people in many different situations. If you don’t see the answers to your questions here, you can also talk with us in person at 877-652-1553 or by filling out our online contact form.
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Should I file a wrongful death claim even if the at-fault driver has been charged with a crime?
When a negligent driver is responsible for killing another person, he could be charged with murder or manslaughter and face consequences such as jail time, loss of driving privileges, and fines. Although a successful conviction in the criminal courts may bring a sense of justice or closure for surviving family members, it doesn’t provide compensation for the victim’s family. That’s why the law allows civil charges to be brought against the person responsible.
Understanding a Civil Claim in Virginia
A civil claim is a legal action brought by one person who seeks to hold another person liable for some harmful act. In a wrongful death claim, the surviving family members file a suit against the person responsible for the accident. The consequences in a civil case are typically monetary, and the at-fault driver must pay compensation to the victim’s family rather than face jail time.
Why You Should File a Wrongful Death Claim in Civil Court
While the at-fault driver may already be facing charges in criminal court, a civil action can be significant for surviving family members for a few reasons. First, the burden of proof is not as great in a civil case. Rather than having to prove the at-fault driver is guilty “beyond reasonable doubt,” guilt simply needs to be shown “by a preponderance of evidence.” This means, the defendant is more likely guilty than he is not, which is a much lighter burden to prove.
Second, surviving family members can obtain compensation to help address financial costs associated to their loved one’s death. If a driver is found to be responsible for another’s death, he could be obligated to provide compensation for:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses incurred before the death
- Sorrow and mental anguish
- Loss of care, comfort, companionship, and guidance
- Value of lost wages that the deceased could have been reasonably expected to earn if he or she had lived
If someone you love has died as the result of another driver’s negligent behavior, it may be possible to file a wrongful death claim. These claims can provide both justice and compensation that you and other surviving family members need to pick up the pieces and begin to move forward after a sudden death. Even if you aren’t sure if you have a claim, our legal team can explain your rights and answer your questions. Call our Fairfax office, or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to arrange a free case review today.
Are punitive damages allowed in Virginia personal injury cases?
Punitive damages, or damages that are meant to punish the defendant rather than compensate the plaintiff, are allowed in Virginia personal injury cases. However, punitive damages are only allowed in specific situations, and they can be very difficult to obtain.
Punitive Damages for Egregious Behavior
Although you may have suffered a very serious injury or your loved one may have been killed in an accident, this doesn’t mean you’ll automatically recover punitive damages. Instead, if you are pursuing a punitive damage award, the court will consider the defendant’s behavior that resulted in your injury.
Punitive damages may be awarded to you if you can prove that the defendant acted with either malice or with willful and wanton disregard for the rights of others. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages. If the defendant’s conduct is not malicious, willful, or wanton, but the defendant failed to use reasonable care, and that resulted in your injury, you may still be able to recover compensatory damages for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Punitive Damage Limits in Virginia
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant, and this financial support will provide you with compensation over and above the value of your compensatory damages. As with other kinds of damages, you will need to prove the value of the punitive damages you are seeking by providing convincing evidence to the court.
While the exact value of your potential punitive damage award is dependent on the facts of your case and the arguments you make, Virginia law limits the amount of punitive damages to a maximum of $350,000.
Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer About Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are not awarded in every case. Our experienced Virginia personal injury lawyers will review the facts of your case and provide you with our professional opinion about whether or not you should pursue punitive damages. Call us, or start a live chat to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your rights and all of your potential compensation.