When you are grieving over the unexpected loss of a loved one, the last thing on your mind may be filing a Virginia wrongful death lawsuit. Even so, it is a necessary procedure for many families who end up dealing with unexpected medical bills, funeral costs, loss of support and pain and suffering after a family member's death.
Virginia has specific laws regarding what family members may collect damages from a Virginia wrongful death lawsuit. Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may be entitled to collect or share the benefits, provided a legal will does not exist expressing other wishes of the deceased.
Damages in a Virginia Wrongful Death Lawsuit
According to Virginia Code, there are 5 types of damages the deceased's survivors can recover in a Virginia wrongful death lawsuit, including:
- loss of income and financial support;
- medical expenses related to the fatal injury;
- funeral expenses;
- compensation for grief, loss of companionship; and
- punitive damages.
The first 3 types of damages are relatively fixed amounts, as they can be determined by examining past wage reports, tax records, medical bills and funeral costs. Compensation for grief is more ambiguous and may require an experienced wrongful death attorney to properly negotiate a fair amount based on the specifics of your circumstances. Punitive damages are solely at the discretion of the court, but are only awarded in cases where extreme neglect took place.
Distribution of Damages in a Virginia Wrongful Death Lawsuit
With the help of your attorney, you can fight to recover compensation for the unexpected costs that come with the loss of a loved one. Once your Virginia wrongful death lawsuit is settled, the deceased's personal representative who filed the lawsuit will be responsible for distributing the damages as outlined in the Virginia Code.
Financial obligations to third parties, such as attorney's fees, medical bills, and funeral costs are the first to be paid from the settlement. Next, the remaining money is to be paid to the surviving spouse, children of the deceased and children of any deceased child of the deceased.
If no such surviving relatives exist, the settlement is paid to the parents and siblings of the deceased, or any other immediate relative who was primarily dependent on the deceased for support. In the event the deceased leaves behind a surviving spouse and parent, but no child, the damages are distributed to spouse and parent.
When there are multiple beneficiaries eligible to claim the settlement from a Virginia wrongful death lawsuit, there may be some conflict over the division of the settlement. Your attorney can help you fight for your fair share of the settlement by showing your need for compensation after your loss.