Wrongful Death Attorney Serving Staunton
The untimely loss of a family member is one of the most devastating experiences imaginable. When the death is caused by someone else’s carelessness, the loss is even more painful. It’s a wound that may never completely heal.
While the loss of a loved one may affect many aspects of a family, there are actions you can take if you lost someone due to another party’s negligence. You should not have to bear the financial burden of someone else’s negligence. The Staunton wrongful death attorneys at the Kendall Law Firm are here to help in whatever way we can. We understand the emotional toll an accidental death can take on a family, and we promise to treat you with empathy and understanding.
While monetary compensation won’t bring back your family member, it can help alleviate the financial strain associated with their passing. You can use the Virginia legal system to hold the person responsible for their death accountable.
Our law firm has more than three decades of combined legal experience, including founding attorney David Kendall’s service in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate General. We’re proud of the accolades we’ve received from our clients and the Staunton community, including a 4.9-star rating on Google and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
To discuss your legal options regarding a Virginia wrongful death case, call (434) 326-4350 or visit our contact page today so you can schedule your free case review.
Common Causes Of Wrongful Death Claims
The most common cause of wrongful death claims are fatal motor vehicle accidents such as car accidents and truck accidents. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reports that there were 7,048 alcohol-related car crashes in 2019, resulting in 264 fatalities. In many cases, it was the drunk drivers who died in the crash. But there were many instances where the drunk driver took the lives of other motorists. These traffic fatalities would be considered wrongful deaths.
In addition to drunk-driving accidents, other common causes of wrongful deaths in Virginia include:
- Other car accidents – The Virginia DMV reports that there were 128,172 car accidents statewide in 2019, resulting in 827 total deaths. In addition to the 264 alcohol-related deaths mentioned above, there were 349 speeding-related fatalities. If the driver who was speeding killed someone else in the crash, that would be an example of a wrongful death.
- Truck accidents – Accidents involving large trucks and other commercial vehicles often result in severe injuries and fatalities. According to Virginia DMV records, in 2019, there were 48 fatal crashes involving large trucks and 97 fatal crashes involving other types of commercial vehicles. Most of the people killed in crashes involving large trucks are the occupants of smaller vehicles. If the truck driver caused a fatal accident, the family of the accident victim may have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver and trucking company.
- Pedestrian accidents – Drivers need to take care to watch out for pedestrians because they are particularly vulnerable to injury or death if they are struck by a vehicle. While pedestrians are sometimes to blame when they’re struck by a car (such as when they wander into the street while intoxicated), it’s often the case that drivers are to blame in pedestrian accidents and may be held accountable. Virginia DMV records indicate that there were 1,625 pedestrian accidents in 2019, resulting in 124 fatalities.
- Defective products – If there is an error made during the design or manufacturing of a product, or if users are not adequately warned of the risks of using the product, the designer or manufacturer may be held liable when someone dies from using that product. Some examples of defective products include unsafe vehicles, dangerous medications, medical devices and defective children’s toys.
- Work accidents – Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees, but many workplaces do not provide adequate protections for workers. Examples of this type of negligence include unsafe premises (spilled liquids that aren’t cleaned up, inadequate lighting, failure to maintain guardrails, etc.), exposing employees to toxic chemicals, accidents involving malfunctioning or poorly maintained equipment, and explosions and fires. The spouse of an employee killed in a workplace accident may be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits.
- Medical malpractice – A 2016 study from Johns Hopkins University found that medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in the United States. This includes everything from surgical errors and medication mistakes to poor follow-up care and delayed diagnoses. Though proving a medical malpractice case can be a challenge, it’s important that doctors and other healthcare providers be held accountable when they fail to follow the standard of care and cause preventable medical errors leading to patients’ deaths.
- Nursing home abuse and neglect – Families trust nursing homes and assisted living facilities to take care of their loved ones. All too often, these facilities are understaffed and provide substandard care. Examples of nursing home neglect include medication errors, infections from unsanitary medical equipment in the facility, patients being handled too roughly or restrained too tightly, and physical or sexual abuse by staff or other residents at the facilities.
Do I Have A Legal Right To Seek Wrongful Death Compensation?
Virginia law only allows certain individuals to seek compensation for someone’s wrongful death. This includes surviving family members as well as other beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate.
State law indicates who has priority to seek compensation after a wrongful death. First priority is given to surviving spouses and children of the deceased. If the deceased had grandchildren, they can only seek compensation if their parents are also deceased.
In the event that the deceased has no surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren, the deceased’s parents, siblings, and other relatives who depended on the deceased may file a wrongful death claim. In some cases, the deceased had no children or grandchildren but does have a surviving spouse or parents. If this is the case, then both the surviving spouse and parents can file a claim for compensation. One caveat here is that parents cannot file a claim for compensation if their parental rights were terminated by a court (such as in a divorce, for example).
Finally, if the deceased did not have surviving spouse, surviving children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, or other relatives, then other beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate may be able to seek compensation. Any damages awarded in such a wrongful death claim will be distributed according to Virginia’s estate laws.
What Can I Be Compensated For In A Wrongful Death Suit?
Some of the things that surviving family members may demand compensation for in a wrongful death suit include:
- The cost of the deceased’s hospitals bills and medical treatment
- Funeral and burial costs for the deceased
- The value of the deceased’s lost income if the surviving family members were relying on the deceased for financial support
- Loss of consortium, which is the legal term for emotional support and affection that the deceased would have provided for their family
- The pain and suffering endured by surviving family members as a result of the deceased’s passing
There is another way in which surviving family members can recover compensation in Virginia after a wrongful death. If the deceased did not immediately die from their injuries and filed a personal injury suit, their estate can continue that lawsuit after their death.
As far as the potential value of your compensation is concerned, there are only a few restrictions on the damages you may seek. If your family member died as a result of medical malpractice, the maximum compensation is determined by state law. The amount you can receive increases each year, according to inflation, and was most recently set at $2.45 million. There’s a $350,000 cap on punitive damages in all personal injury cases.
Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In Staunton
In Virginia, wrongful death lawsuits are filed by the administrator of the deceased’s estate. The lawyer handling the wrongful death case will need to provide evidence proving negligence in order to obtain any compensation from the liable party. The key components of a negligence claim are:
- The deceased died as a result of someone’s wrongful actions or failure to act.
- If the deceased had not died, they would have been able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the party who injured them.
- The deceased would not have died if not for the wrongful actions or negligence of the party who caused their injuries
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Staunton requires the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney to have the best chance of success. An experienced Staunton wrongful death lawyer at Kendall Law Firm can help you navigate the process and give you the best possible chance at recovering fair compensation for your loss. Contact our wrongful death attorneys today by calling (434) 326-4350 or visiting our contact page.