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.