Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Driving is the most popular (and dangerous) form of transportation throughout the United States. While safety commissions and government entities exert significant time and energy into traffic safety education and accident prevention, accidents continue to occur at an alarming rate. Some Virginia car accidents may result in minor injuries and damages; however, many suffer serious injuries or death. Virginians who have lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident should understand their rights and remedies.

Virginia law defines wrongful death as a death that results because of another’s wrongful act or neglect. The law provides that a plaintiff may proceed with a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party, if the circumstances of the victim’s death would have warranted a personal injury claim, if the victim did not die. Essentially, a wrongful death claim is akin to a personal injury lawsuit except that the victim is no longer alive. These types of lawsuits often arise after a car, truck, or motorcycle accident, medical malpractice, or a similar situation where another’s negligence caused the victim’s death.

For example, recently, a Virginia news report described a harrowing car accident that occurred on Thanksgiving. Reports indicate that a pickup truck driver was heading west when he sped through a red light. He subsequently slammed into several vehicles, including an SUV, resulting in the death of two people. Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) data provides that the intersection has been the scene of 18 collisions; however, this was the first accident resulting in a fatality.

When a driver is not paying attention, there can be extreme consequences. If a distracted driver hits a pedestrian, this will often result in the pedestrian’s serious injury, or even death. When a person is killed in a pedestrian accident, their loved ones may bring a lawsuit against the driver. This claim is called a Virginia wrongful death lawsuit, and if the defendant is held liable, they may be required to provide the victim’s family monetary compensation.

According to a local news source, recently in Virginia Beach, a woman was killed after being hit by a car. The woman was crossing the street as she was struck by a car traveling southbound. A witness to the accident tried to help until medics arrived, but the woman was pronounced dead at the scene. According to a local news report, it is unclear whether the vehicle stayed at the scene or if the driver will be charged.

Under Virginia Code §8.01-50, a personal representative of a deceased person may bring an action for wrongful death if their death was caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another person. The statute also requires that the deceased individual would have been able to bring a lawsuit against the responsible party, had they not passed. Using the recent pedestrian accident as an example, the deceased’s loved ones would need to prove that the woman would not have died, but for the driver’s irresponsible behavior. If they can do so, they may have a successful wrongful death suit.

Losing a loved one is always difficult. However, it can be even more difficult when the person who passes away is a child. In Virginia, when the death was unexpected and the result of another person’s negligence, the deceased person’s loved one can sue the responsible party by filing a Virginia wrongful death claim. While seeking compensation, the family may seek damages for their mental anguish stemming from the loss. While this cannot bring their child back, mental anguish damages are meant to help the family as they emotionally recuperate.

Recently, three children were killed in a car accident on Interstate 95. According to a recent news report, a car traveling southbound was hit in the rear by another car, causing the hit car to crash into the guardrail while the other driver lost control, and their car overturned. While the driver of the rear-ended car received non-life-threatening injuries, the three children in the car were killed instantly.

In situations like this horrific crash, a person can pursue a wrongful death claim if the negligent or reckless act of another caused the death of their loved one. Under Virginia Code section 8.01-52, when pursuing a wrongful death claim, a loved one can ask for compensation for sorrow and mental anguish, loss of income and services, expenses for the hospitalization of the decedent, funeral expenses, and punitive damages (if the defendant acted willfully).

After many Virginia car accidents, police and emergency responders arrive at the scene of the accident. Law enforcement typically responds in order to investigate whether anyone committed a criminal act that caused the accident and to gather information to prevent future incidents. In some cases, the police may arrest an individual or pursue criminal charges against one or more parties involved. An arrest or subsequent charges may impact an injury victim’s personal injury case.

Fundamentally, there are several differences between criminal charges and civil lawsuits. First, the burden of proof is different depending on the type of case. In a civil personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish that the other party was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries by a preponderance of the evidence. This standard requires the plaintiff to prove that it is “more likely than not” that the other party caused their injuries. In contrast, the burden of proof in criminal cases is much more difficult and requires the state to prove that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This crucial difference means that injury victims are more likely to succeed in a civil case than the state can on a criminal matter, because the burden is significantly lower.

Another key difference is that there are additional damages available to victims in civil cases compared to a criminal case. In some situations, a criminal conviction may allow a victim to recover compensation through a victim relief fund or restitution. However, civil injury plaintiffs might recover damages for losses that restitution or a relief fund does not cover. For instance, civil injury victims may be entitled to compensation for emotional distress, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering.

Most Virginia residents trust their doctors, and for good reason. Doctors are highly-trained medical professionals and, generally, do a great job taking care of patients. However, doctors are still human and sometimes make mistakes or are careless, which can result in significant harm to patients. When these mistakes do happen, Virginia state law allows those who are injured to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible doctor. If successful, these suits can result in financial recovery for the victim to cover pain and suffering, lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and other losses they suffered.

The purpose of these lawsuits is generally not to punish the doctor but rather to help the victim recover. Because of this, punitive damages are rarely available. Punitive damages are additional monetary damages that may be awarded to the plaintiff that serve not to make the plaintiff whole and help them recover, but to punish and deter the doctor’s behavior. Because this is not the purpose of medical malpractice lawsuits, these damages are reserved for rare cases when the doctor’s conduct was extremely egregious and in disregard of the patient.

Recently, a Virginia court discussed punitive damages in a medical malpractice case. According to the court’s written opinion, the patient broke her ankle in March of 2011, and was treated by the defendant, a doctor. The patient required surgery, and after the surgery, the doctor prescribed her Percocet, a drug consisting of acetaminophen and oxycodone, a controlled narcotic substance. The patient had a history of bipolar disorder and alcohol use, so she was at an increased risk of developing an addiction to narcotic pain medication, but the doctor continued to prescribe her Percocet. He never attempted to treat her with non-narcotic pain medication.

Earlier this month, a Virginia car accident resulted in the death of an 83-year-old man. According to a local news report, the man was driving his pick-up truck on Route 122 when an oncoming minivan crossed over the center line, crashing into the man’s vehicle. The man was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. While emergency responders were on the scene within minutes, the driver of the pick-up truck sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

The driver of the minivan, as well as her two minor passengers, were hospitalized as a result of the accident. They are expected to make a full recovery. Authorities are still looking into the cause of the fatal head-on collision.

Pursuing a Virginia Wrongful Death Claim

When someone is killed in a Virginia motor vehicle collision, the accident victim’s surviving family members may pursue a claim for financial compensation through a Virginia wrongful death case. Wrongful death cases are very similar to other negligence cases in that they require a plaintiff to show that the defendant’s “wrongful act, neglect, or default,” caused the death of their loved one. Simply put, the elements of a wrongful death claim are duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Continue Reading

When a family entrusts a Virginia nursing home with the care of their loved one, the family rightfully expects the nursing home to engage in the proper care and treatment of their family member. Nursing homes and their employees owe their residents a duty of care to ensure their safety and well-being. In cases where a nursing home places a resident in danger or causes them harm, the resident or their family members may file a Virginia personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the facility.

Virginia takes nursing home abuse very seriously, and the legislature has enacted several laws specifically directed to protect nursing home residents. Additionally, nursing homes and their employees owe their residents a common-law duty to protect them from abuse. Protecting residents involves engaging in a vigorous hiring and training process. Included in this are extensive background checks and continuous reviews of their employees’ practices. When a nursing home fails to take these necessary steps, residents are often put in jeopardy.

Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect because they often lack some of their mental and physical faculties. For example, they may not be able to articulate or even remember the cause of their injuries. Some common types of abuse are physical, mental, sexual, and financial abuse. In these cases, the employee who engaged in abusive behavior may be held liable. Additionally, the nursing home may also be responsible based on the theory of vicarious liability or respondeat superior.

Contact Information