Carter Craig, Attorneys at Law

How Virginia courts calculate damages for wrongful death

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If a person dies due to another person's negligence or misconduct, Virginia laws provide surviving members of the victim's family the right to file a lawsuit against the person at fault. If family members of the deceased succeed in proving their claim in court, they may be paid damages by the defendant.

Most wrongful deaths occur due to car accidents, incidents of medical malpractice and workplace accidents. Virginia courts consider certain criteria to calculate damages to be paid based on injury or loss suffered. Survivors are compensated not only for financial losses, but also for mental trauma suffered. Damages for pain and suffering and mental anguish are all considered before a judgment is issued.

Fair compensation is generally paid for the loss of potential income that a deceased victim would have earned, as well as for the protection, care and assistance that was provided by the victim. Everything from hospitalization to additional medical care provided the deceased victim is considered when calculating damages and compensation. Damages also include reimbursement for reasonable funeral expenses. Punitive damages may be recovered from the defendant if he or she willfully disregarded the safety of another in causing the accident that resulted in injury or death.

Some damages should be specifically mentioned when the court's verdict is issued. All damages can only be recovered if surviving members prove their claim of wrongful death. Failing to prove a claim can lead to difficult and emotional times for family members, who may not have the financial means to absorb the financial and emotional losses.

Before filing a petition for wrongful death, many family members may find it advantageous to learn about all legal options available. A qualified legal representative who is well-versed in this area of law may suggest some effective ways to proceed with a claim to help victims receive fair compensation for pain and suffering.

Source: State.VA.us, "Amount of damages," accessed April 15, 2015

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