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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Why should I file a wrongful death claim?
Losing a loved one is never easy. Often, it can be harder to overcome grief when a relative’s life was taken by another person’s negligence. You may have lost a wage-earning spouse or have to pay for a funeral that should have happened years in the future. No matter the circumstances, you may consider filing a wrongful death claim.
While taking another person to court is a profoundly personal decision, an attorney may be able to help you recover monetary losses to ensure your family’s financial stability. In some cases, a wrongful death lawsuit can be a powerful force for change, with the potential to punish negligent parties and force reckless corporations to adopt safer policies.
Reasons to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
There are many reasons people are motivated to file a wrongful death claim; however, the most common are:
- To recover damages. When someone files a wrongful death lawsuit, they are typically not looking to capitalize on their loss for financial gain. However, the death of a loved one can be financially devastating. Monetary compensation can help provide important financial support and security for the family. This is especially critical if the deceased was the primary wage earner.
- To hold the negligent person accountable. Depending on the circumstances, a person whose negligence takes another person’s life may not face criminal charges. Filing a wrongful death claim can hold the negligent party accountable. Even though the person will not go to jail, they may be made to make monetary restitution to the family.
- To deter future acts of negligence. A wrongful death lawsuit can serve as a powerful agent for change. Critical settlements and/or court verdicts can occur, and word can spread through media coverage. This news can influence the behavior of others who might re-think their own behavior and act more carefully in the future, thus saving lives.
- To get closure. For people who suffer the death of a loved one, a successful wrongful death lawsuit can provide a sense of closure and justice for the one they lost.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia
Not everyone can bring a wrongful death claim in Virginia. Only a “statutory beneficiary” is allowed to file. This means, only those family members or dependents who can recover in a wrongful death claim can lawfully file. Section 8.01-53 of the Virginia Code prioritizes these family members in the following specific order:
- The surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren of the deceased
- The parents, brothers, or sisters of the deceased, or any relative who was primarily dependent on the deceased
- A surviving family member who can inherit the deceased’s estate
There is also has a deadline for when wrongful death claims can be filed. Virginia law requires that wrongful death claims be filed within two years of the deceased person’s death. If a claim is not filed within those two years, the statute of limitations will prohibit the case from being heard by the court.
The Process of Filing a Complaint
If someone has standing to file a wrongful death claim and potentially benefit from its outcome, they and their attorney can bring a complaint before the court.
Before getting started, the family’s attorney will likely conduct an investigation into the fatal accident. Because you’ll need to prove that the at-fault party was negligent or responsible for the death of your loved one, your attorney will gather and evaluate evidence as it relates to your case.
Once the grounds for a case have been firmly established, your attorney will draft the complaint paperwork and determine the appropriate county in which to file the lawsuit. This is typically the county where your loved one lived, and the case must be brought to a court that has jurisdiction over the case.
Your lawyer will then serve formal notice of the complaint to any business or person that will be named as a defendant in the case. After they respond, the case will move forward.
You Don’t Have to Fight Alone
Filing a wrongful death claim does not have to be stressful. While initiating a complaint means filing a lot of paperwork and sending out notices, you do not have to do any of this yourself. An experienced Virginia wrongful death lawyer can help guide you through the process, saving you time, money, and stress. KFFJ Law has years of experience helping Virginians get justice for their loved ones, even when it seems out of reach.
You should contact an attorney if you have lost a loved one in a:
- Car accident
- Motorcycle accident
- Semi-truck accident
- Bus or train accident
- Boating accident
- Drunk driving accident
- Distracted driving accident
- Multiple-car accident
- Catastrophic injury accident
- Fatal injury accident
Contact Us Today
If you have lost a loved one to another person’s negligence, you do not have to go through it alone. KFFJ Law’s team of experienced attorneys knows and understands Virginia personal injury and wrongful death laws. We know what courts and insurers want to see, and we know how to get it. Send us a message online, or call us today to schedule your free initial consultation.
Will I owe federal taxes on my personal injury settlement or verdict?
If you receive a settlement for your personal injury lawsuit, it’s likely you won’t have to pay federal taxes on the amount. However, there are exceptions, and it’s important to know the factors that affect whether or not you’ll have to pay.
After You Get a Personal Injury Settlement
Once you get your settlement amount, your lawyer will deduct legal fees from the full amount, leaving you with the rest. In general, neither the federal government nor the state of Virginia will be able to collect any proceeds that you received in your personal injury lawsuit that compensate you for physical injuries. This includes damages that compensated you for lost income at work, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. These are called compensatory damages.
There are exceptions to this rule, however. If you received punitive damages, this amount will be taxable. In addition, if you have a claim for emotional distress or employment discrimination but did not suffer an actual physical injury as a result, this settlement amount will likely be taxable. Insurance companies typically cut one settlement check, which will not account for the different types of damages.
Work With a Tax Professional
When it comes to questions about taxes or dealing with the Internal Revenue Service, it’s always best to contact a tax professional. The federal government will have access to your settlement information, and the insurance company will likely submit a 1099 form to report the amount of compensation you received. Every personal injury settlement is different, so you will need to get advice on yours from a qualified tax professional to determine if any taxes will be due.
Call Us for Help
Have you been injured because of another person’s negligence? Please contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your rights and to discuss the actions we can take on your behalf to recover the damages you deserve. Since we work on a contingency fee basis, you won’t owe us any upfront legal fees. We don’t get paid until you do. To learn more, please contact us here.
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.