The death of a close relative is never easy. But losing a parent, spouse or child in a car accident can be especially devastating. Especially if one of the drivers involved caused the wreck.
Loss of life in a reasonably preventable crash, such as one caused by a drunk driver, can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. While litigation can never bring back the person you love, it can help hold the driver responsible for their actions and make up for the financial loss your loved one’s death has caused your family.
Elements of a wrongful death claim
In Virginia, the executor of the deceased’s estate usually is the one who must file a wrongful death suit. To prevail in court, you must prove the following:
- Someone died
- As the result of someone else’s negligence or intent to cause harm
- The deceased’s family suffered financial injury as a result
The standard of proof in civil litigation like wrongful death is lower than in criminal court. In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For a civil suit, the judge or jury must be convinced by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it is more likely than not that the defendant is liable. Thus, it is often easier to obtain a favorable verdict in a wrongful death suit than for prosecutors to secure a conviction for vehicular manslaughter or similar crimes. In many cases, it is the only way to obtain some form of justice against the driver.
Both the deceased’s estate and their immediate family can potentially receive compensation for damages for things like loss of support, loss of companionship, medical bills and funeral costs. Relieving the financial burden the reckless driver has caused your family can be a great comfort.