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.