An Experienced Attorney Can Make a Difference in a Wrongful Death Case

Author: P. Christopher Guedri, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney

When someone’s negligence or misconduct results in the death of another, the victim’s family may choose to file a wrongful death claim. [1] A wrongful death can come about due to a car accident, medical procedure, a catastrophic injury, or because someone failed to warn about a hazardous situation.

At Allen & Allen, our attorneys have experience with the nuances of wrongful death cases, and are equipped with the expertise to help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Here are a few ways an experienced attorney can make a difference in your case.   

Legal requirements of a wrongful death claim

Wrongful death claims have been specifically created by Virginia legislation.[2] This means that any claim must fall within the purview of the law. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help explain these requirements and make sure that your claim is correctly filed. The basic elements of a wrongful death claim in Virginia are:

  • The death of a person;
  • Caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of a person or corporation;
  • That would have entitled the decedent to pursue a personal injury claim for damages.[3]

Once these elements are met, a personal representative must be appointed to pursue the claim on behalf of the decedent.

Amount of damages in a wrongful death claim

Under Virginia law, the decedent’s beneficiaries are entitled to damages that are “fair and just”.[4] The law specifically authorizes damages for the following in cases that are tried without a jury:

  • Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace;
  • Compensation for expected loss of income, services, protection and care of the decedent;
  • Expenses for care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent for the injury resulting in death;
  • Reasonable funeral expenses; and
  • Punitive damages where the death was due to willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.[5]

The law does not limit damages to the instances listed here, and an experienced attorney can help you determine what damages are “fair and just” in your situation.

What beneficiaries are entitled to recover in a wrongful death claim

The Code of Virginia designates who is entitled to recover damages in a wrongful death case.[6] Damages are to be awarded to the following beneficiaries:

  • First to the surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren of the deceased;
  • If the deceased leaves no surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren, then the parents, siblings, or other dependents of the deceased; and
  • If the deceased leaves behind a spouse and parents, but no children or grandchildren, then to the spouse and parents; or
  • To beneficiaries who are primarily dependent on the decedent for support.[7]

As evidenced by this list, the beneficiaries who may or may not be entitled to damages can become complicated, especially in unique family situations. An experienced attorney can help you determine whether you are entitled to recover under the law.

If you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one, filing a wrongful death suit can be an emotional and difficult decision. The attorneys at Allen & Allen understand and want to help. We have the experience to help you pursue full and fair compensation for your loss. For a free consultation, call The Allen Law Firm at 1-866-388-1307.

About The Author: Chris Guedri was named "Lawyer of the Year 2015" by Best Lawyers in America for Personal Injury-Plaintiffs in Richmond, VA. He  has more than 30 years of experience and is a trial attorney and Partner Emeritus with the law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen.


[1] http://injury.findlaw.com/torts-and-personal-injuries/wrongful-death-overview.html

[2] See Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-50.

[3] Id.

[4] See id.

[5] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-52.

[6] See Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-53.

[7] Id.

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