Few people are ever prepared for the unexpected loss of a loved one. However, each day, Virginia families are faced with tragedy. Sometimes, these tragedies are simply accidents—events nobody could have anticipated or prevented. Sometimes, though, these tragedies are a consequence of negligence.
When a Virginia resident dies because of another person’s negligence, their loved ones may be able to file a wrongful death claim to recoup damages and begin repairing their lives.
While wrongful death claims may result from any number of negligent accidents, there are some that are more common than others.
Virginia is a highly populated state, adjacent to some of the country’s most populous metropolitan areas, and Virginia’s roads and highways attract a lot of traffic. Consequently, car accidents are one of the leading causes of death in Virginia. In 2020, an estimated 847 people lost their lives on Virginia roads, while tens of thousands of others were injured.
Most car accidents are caused by negligence—the driver may be intoxicated, driving drowsy, driving aggressively, or not paying attention for a variety of other reasons. Whenever a crash results in death, and that death was caused by another motorist’s negligence, the decedent’s family members are entitled to file a wrongful death claim.
While the trucking industry is highly regulated with strict rules for truck drivers, long hours of service, heavy workloads, and simple human error lead to hundreds of commercial truck accidents in Virginia each year. Because commercial vehicles are so large, even a simple, low-speed collision can be deadly. Wrongful death cases involving a truck can be complicated and often have more than one at-fault party.
According to the Virginia Highway Safety Office, there were 1,827 motorcycle crashes and 88 fatalities in 2020. Wrongful death cases are different from personal injury lawsuits with special procedures. However, the driver who causes a motorcycle crash must be found liable due to negligence, carelessness, or other driving errors. Many people believe that motorcycles are more dangerous to ride than in cars, trucks, or other forms of ordinary transportation. While motorcycles lack the safety features of passenger vehicles, a large number of motorcycle-related accidents are caused by the negligence of other drivers. Often, people fail to “see” a motorcycle before merging into a lane, taking a left turn, or rushing through a traffic signal.
Cycling is a favorite activity for children and adults, and it’s become an alternate mode of transportation for getting to work and traveling around. However, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reports that in 2019, there were 651 bicycle crashes in Virginia with over 600 injuries and 13 fatalities.
Bicyclists are more likely to be hit in densely-populated areas, suburbs, and in poor-weather, low-visibility conditions. In some rare instances, cyclists may even be targeted by enraged drivers who erroneously believe they should not be “slowing down traffic” by riding in the road. When a loved one has lost their life, it’s important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your wrongful death claim.
If you lose a loved one in a bus accident, it’s important to know there may be many possible at-fault parties whose negligence may have contributed to the fatality. The bus company itself or a negligent driver can be the defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit. Also, the mechanics who routinely check the bus for defects could be responsible if they did not find or fix mechanical problems that could have caused the accident. Additionally, dangerous road conditions caused by missing or improper signs/signals, missing guardrails, and/or broken pavement could contribute to or cause the bus crash, and the city or state where the accident occurred could be liable.
The driver of the vehicle that hits a pedestrian is usually at fault; however, pedestrians are required to follow and obey all traffic signals, and if they don’t, they can be considered negligent. In 49 percent of accidents that lead to a pedestrian fatality, alcohol is the main factor—either the driver or the pedestrian usually has alcohol in their blood. There is a two-year statute of limitation for filing a wrongful death claim in Virginia.
Train and Commuter Rail Accidents
While train accidents sometimes make the news, derailments are rare occurrences. However, a derailment is not the only cause of inter-state train and commuter line accidents. A conductor’s decision to suddenly brake at high speeds can jolt and severely harm passengers, while poorly maintained platforms and improperly secured power stations can pose life-threatening hazards.
Rail companies are required by state and federal law to ensure passenger safety. When these companies fail to provide safe travel and cause a wrongful death, you can file a personal injury or wrongful death claim.
With Virginia’s estimated 5,000 miles of shoreline, boating is a popular pastime. However, with so many boaters on the water, tragic accidents can occur. Often, these accidents are caused by negligent, careless, and reckless boat drivers who may be distracted and not paying attention to piloting the boat, don’t have a proper lookout to watch for potential problems, are intoxicated, are traveling too fast, or are simply inexperienced. When an innocent victim dies in a boating accident, a wrongful death claim can be filed for compensation for economic and noneconomic damages, including funeral expenses, burial expenses, loss of financial support the deceased would have provided, and loss of consortium and companionship.
Construction workers have some of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S.—especially roofers, heavy machine operators, and materials drivers. These workers are more likely to die on the job than police officers. When a construction worker dies while working, and a wrongful death claim is filed against the employer, the employer may try to shield themselves from liability by claiming the worker was actually a contractor. However, a skilled personal injury attorney can prove this is a false claim and challenge it in court.
Property owners—including business owners, landlords, and government offices—are responsible for maintaining safe, hazard-free spaces for people who visit the property. Owners must ensure their buildings comply with local codes and ordinances and are repaired to remain safe even if they are decades old. If they neglect these requirements, property owners can be held accountable if someone dies due to a slip and fall on broken cement, loose handrails, poor lighting, and other defects that have not been fixed.
Most dog attacks are a direct result of owner negligence. While most dog bites are not life-threatening, some attacks can be deadly given the force of the attack and the force of the bite, or because the dog carries bacteria in its mouth that can cause a serious infection. Dog attacks can be especially dangerous for children and seniors who may lack the size, stature, and strength to fight back or escape an aggressive canine.
What to Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits
If you have lost a loved one due to negligence, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim to pursue recompense for damages such as:
- Loss of the deceased person’s anticipated income, wages, and/or benefits
- Sorrow and mental anguish
- Loss of companionship
- End-of-life medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
Typically, a wrongful death claim can only be filed up to two years after the death of a loved one. Virginia, unlike other states, limits filing eligibility: only family members who would be considered “statutory beneficiaries” are eligible to sue, and their lawsuit must be filed through the deceased’s estate representative or executor.
Affording a Wrongful Death Attorney
Many people believe they cannot afford a personal injury or wrongful death attorney. However, most of these attorneys work on a contingency fee basis and don’t charge their clients until or unless the case is settled. When you hire a Virginia wrongful death attorney, you never pay anything up front; instead, your lawyer’s fee will be a percentage of your settlement award. Thus, your lawyer only gets paid when you do—and if you lose your case, you do not owe anything.
If your loved one died due to another person’s negligence, you should not have to bear the burden of recovery alone. Send Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi a message today, and schedule your initial consultation.