We all know that no amount of money can be placed on a human life. Death is final and irreversible, and nothing can bring back a loved one who lost their life because of the negligence or reckless actions of another person or party. No amount of money can ease the grief and heartbreak losing someone who was close to you.
All that being said, in the realm of personal injury and wrongful death claims, the best that can be done to right the wrong of the untimely death of a loved one is to provide financial compensation. But how much is a person’s life worth according to the law? The answer to that question is complex at best, and it depends on numerous factors.
One thing that is nearly certain is that the insurance company for the party responsible for a wrongful death will do everything they can to pay out as little as possible. They will look for ways to diminish the value of the claim or even deny it all together. Or if there is overwhelming evidence that their client is clearly at fault, they may come to you early on with a lowball settlement offer, hoping you will want to take the quick money and put this tragic incident behind you.
If you have lost a loved one because of someone else’s wrongdoing, it is important for you to fully understand your rights. Before dealing with the insurer for the responsible party, it is best to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to fully assess your case and review your legal options. This way, you can make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed.
What is a Wrongful Death Case Worth in Virginia?
While there is no set dollar amount that applies to all wrongful death cases and no attorney can guarantee that they will recover a certain amount, there are damages that are available in most cases to family members and the decedent’s estate that provide compensation for various types of losses:
- Economic Damages: These are actual monetary losses that were incurred because of your loved one’s death. Examples include medical expenses related to the decedent’s final illness or injury, lost wages (including wages the decedent might reasonably have been expected to earn had they had lived), and funeral and burial costs.
- Non-Economic Damages: These are intangible losses that are more difficult to assign a dollar figure to. Examples include sorrow and emotional distress, and loss of care, companionship, guidance, and comfort.
- Punitive Damages: In rarer cases in which a wrongful death was the result of willful and wanton negligence on the part of the person or party responsible, punitive damages may be awarded to “punish” the wrongdoer and help deter them (and others) from similarly egregious actions in the future.
In Virginia, punitive damages are capped at $350,000. Virginia also caps the total for the all damages in a medical malpractice case at $2 million. Even if actual losses far exceed this amount, the award will be reduced by the court to the $2 million cap.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia?
State law allows only “statutory beneficiaries” to file wrongful death claims, which would include immediate family members and dependents. Those are allowed to bring a claim include:
- Surviving spouses;
- Surviving children and grandchildren;
- Surviving parents and siblings;
- Dependent relatives who shared the same household as the decedent;
- Surviving family members who are heirs to the decedent’s estate under Virginia’s intestacy laws.
The right of family members and dependents to file a wrongful death lawsuit follows a specific order. The first group with the right to file are surviving spouses, children and grandchildren. If there are no survivors in the first group, surviving parents, siblings, or dependents may file. If there are no survivors in the second group, then the right goes to the next heir under the state’s intestacy laws.
It is important to note that Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits. If a surviving loved one does not bring a wrongful death claim within two years of the decedent’s death, the case will most likely be thrown out of court.
Speak with a Knowledgeable and Compassionate Virginia Wrongful Death Lawyer
Putting a price on human life is a fool’s errand. And while nothing can replace the loss of someone who was close to you, financial compensation can help cushion the blow and allow you to more easily adjust to life without your lost loved one. At Olmstead & Olmstead, we are here to help provide strong legal guidance and moral support during this difficult time. We work closely with our clients, and we fight hard to obtain the full and fair compensation our clients need and deserve. To schedule your initial consultation with one of our skilled personal injury attorneys, call us today at 703-361-1555. You may also message us through our online contact form or visit our Manassas, VA office in person at your convenience.