When someone dies due to causes other than natural changes to their health, the people closest to them often have a particularly difficult form of grief to process. It can be very hard to let go of the profound anger that comes with the realization that an individual or business may have been directly responsible for someone’s personal tragedy.
People in situations where it is likely that they may put others at risk, like drivers and business owners, usually carry special insurance to reduce their liability in the event that something goes wrong. Sometimes, insurance compensation may be enough to cover people’s losses, but oftentimes, a lawsuit may be necessary to help people recover the full financial impact of losing a loved one. Virginia law limits wrongful death claims to three specific types of conduct.
What the state statute says
A wrongful death claim is a legal possibility in scenarios involving wrongful actions, negligence or defaults. Wrongful actions are often the easiest to identify, as they involve someone violating state or federal statutes. Drunk driving and criminal assault that results in fatal injury could be examples of wrongful acts that might give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit.
Negligence is a common reason for litigation after someone dies. The standard for negligence involves determining what a reasonable person would think in the situation. If someone’s actions would seem unsafe or inappropriate to a reasonable person, then the circumstances may meet the definition of negligence.
Finally, defaults involve a failure to fulfill obligations either imposed through the law or through a contract with another party. A medical alert company failing to make contact when someone’s device sent notice of cardiac issues could be an example of a default that might have directly contributed to someone dying when they otherwise could have survived.
Provided that the circumstances leading to an individual’s death meet one of those three standards established in Virginia state law, the personal representative of their estate may have grounds to pursue a claim. Successful wrongful death lawsuits can result in compensation for the full financial impact of someone’s death, including medical and funeral expenses, lost wages and consequences for the family.
Seeking legal guidance to learn more about the wrongful death statute in Virginia can help those who have lost a loved one determine what options may be available to them.