What Damages Can You Claim in a Virginia Wrongful Death Case?

WAVY – Channel 10 in Portsmouth, Virginia reported, on June 8, 2013 that a man was charged DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and Involuntary Manslaughter when his Toyota pickup truck entered the opposing lane and struck a Ford Taurus driven by an 84 year old man. The wife of the 84 year old man survived but was heartbroken. The accident happened in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The family of the 84 year old man is entitled to bring a wrongful death claim against all responsible parties.

Wrongful death cases vary from state to state. In Virginia, the Virginia Wrongful Death law (§ 8.01-50 through § 8.01-56) details who can see and what can be recovered. Other laws apply for North Carolina and other states.

Who can sue?

The personal representative (if there is a will) or the administrator (if there isn’t a will) of the decedent’s Estate stands in the shoes of the victim and can bring the lawsuit against the responsible parties. The personal representative/administrator collects the money. The beneficiaries and the health and funeral bill creditors get the money.

For more on how someone becomes the personal representative please see my FAQ post.

What Damages can be claimed?

  1. Medical Bills for all relevant medical care of the decedent.
  2. Funeral Expenses of the decedent.
  3. Net income of the decedent – this is the amount the decedent would have reasonably earned (salary, retirement benefits, etc.) minus typical expenses such as taxes. Only the amount that would have gone to the beneficiaries (family members) is awarded. This amount is reduced to a present day value.
  4. Those people allowed to claim damages (usually a spouse, children and parents) can also ask for compensation for:
    • Loss of services -This usually means the chores and care the decedent would have done for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
    • Loss of society – “Society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent.” – This is an award for the emotional care and companionship the decedent would have given to the beneficiaries.
  5. Punitive Damages, if the decedent could have claimed that had he/she lived. Punitive damages are meant to help insure the wrongful conduct doesn’t happen again. Virginia has caps on punitive damages.

There is NO claim for compensation for pain and suffering of the decedent

WHO ARE THE BENEFICIARIES?

The people allowed to claim damages are set forth in the Virginia Code § 8.01-50.

The first determination that is made is the relationship of the beneficiary to the decedent – spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, sibling, a relative who was dependent on the decedent. If none of these relatives exist then the Virginia laws on intestate succession determine who the beneficiaries are.

The second determination that is made is the amount the relative depended on the deceased. Minors are generally considered to be the most dependent.

If an agreement can’t be made as to who are the beneficiaries and what amounts they get, then the jury or the judge decides.

In Virginia, the parents of a fetus may be able to claim damages.

How Our Firm Can Help

If you know someone who was died through the wrongful death of another, in Virginia, make sure that you really do contact an attorney. It is easy to do.

When it comes to wrongful death cases in Virginia, make sure you visit www.JoeMillerInjuryLaw.com or call Wrongful Death Lawyer Joe Miller at 888-694-1671 to get all of the information that you need. We also suggest you visit our pages relating to wrongful death cases for a full list of helpful hints.