What Constitutes Wrongful Death?

If you are wondering how to file a wrongful death claim, it can be extremely helpful to speak to a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney. A wrongful death claim is warranted when an individual dies as the result of wrongful action by another individual or entity. Many wrongful death claims begin as personal injury claims when an individual is injured or harmed as a result of the negligence of another. With decades of experience in personal injury claims, including wrongful death cases, the attorneys at Tronfeld West & Durrett are ready to handle your case.

Wrongful death refers to a death that is the result of neglect or a wrongful act by another individual or entity. You can find the Virginia statute regarding wrongful death under Virginia Code § 8.01-50. A loved one can pursue a wrongful death claim when the circumstances surrounding the wrongful death are equal to those that would have permitted the decedent to pursue a personal injury lawsuit if he or she had survived. In order to pursue a wrongful death claim, the following elements must be present: 

  • There must have been a duty of care owed to the decedent by the defendant. As an example, all drivers have a duty of care to other drivers, in that they must follow all rules and laws and drive safely to avoid injuring others. Property owners have a duty of care to visitors to maintain the property and warn of any known hazards or dangers. 
  • The duty of care must have been breached by the defendant.
  • This breach of duty of care must have caused the death of the victim. 
  • There are damages as a result of the breach of duty of care. Damages in a wrongful death claim include mental anguish, loss of the victim’s guidance, comfort, and companionship, loss of the victim’s protection, care, and services, medical expenses incurred as a result of the incident, and burial and funeral expenses. In rare instances, punitive damages are available when it can be shown that the at-fault party acted willfully or maliciously. 

In the state of Virginia, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years from the date of the victim’s death. If the claim is not filed within this window of time, the court will likely dismiss the claim, although there are a few narrow exceptions. If you are unsure of how to file a wrongful death claim, it is important that you seek highly qualified legal assistance from an experienced wrongful death attorney from Tronfeld West & Durrett. 

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What is the process of filing a wrongful death claim?

Having an experienced wrongful death attorney by your side is crucial. Wrongful death claims can be complex, and the financial cost associated with the loss of a loved one often means compensation is more of a necessity than a luxury. Once you have a strong wrongful death attorney by your side, you can have the time you need to grieve for your loved one while your attorney handles the following:

  • Comprehensively investigating the circumstances that led to the death of your loved one, including interviewing any potential witnesses, securing video that supports your claim, determining whether a medical error caused the death, and much, much more. If the responsible party attempts to cover up the details of the death or avoid liability, your attorney will ensure that does not happen. 
  • Determining liability for the death of your loved one. As one of the primary goals of your wrongful death attorney, determining the liable party can include obtaining medical records, if the wrongful death is the result of medical error, and determining whether the care received by your loved one met the accepted medical standard of care. 
  • Advising you of your legal rights and protecting those rights on your behalf. Since laws related to wrongful death can vary significantly from state to state, you need a knowledgeable Virginia wrongful death lawyer who can tell you if your case qualifies as wrongful death, and whether your claim falls within the statute of limitations.  
  • Calculating damages and filing a claim on your behalf. The wrongful death attorney will determine both economic damages (medical care, funeral and burial expenses, and loss of income your loved one would have earned) and non-economic damages (any pain and suffering your loved one experienced before their death, the loss of love, support, companionship and affection for the loved one’s survivors, and the emotional anguish resulting from the wrongful death). 
  • Negotiating a full, fair settlement for your damages.
  • Filing a lawsuit and arguing your case in court, in the event that the insurer refuses to pay an equitable settlement.

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?

After your questions regarding how to file a wrongful death claim are fully answered and the claim is filed, it will either be resolved through negotiation or litigation. The payout for a wrongful death claim is typically paid in one of two ways. Either you will receive a lump sum settlement with the entire amount paid all at once, or your settlement will be paid through what is known as a “structured settlement.” In a structured settlement, you will receive scheduled payments over a specified period of time. In a lump sum payout, it usually takes about six weeks to receive a check for damages after a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict.  

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Who are the beneficiaries of the wrongful death statute in Virginia?

The individuals who are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit under statute include:

  • The surviving spouse of the deceased.
  • Any children or grandchildren of the deceased.
  • Surviving parents and siblings, or any relatives who shared the deceased’s household.

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How a Tronfeld West & Durrett Attorney Can Help You With Your Wrongful Death Claim

Whether you are in Richmond, Chesterfield, Mechanicsville, Petersburg, Newport News, Virginia Beach, Fredericksburg, Chesapeake, or the Norfolk area, the Tronfeld West & Durrett wrongful death attorneys can help you during this trying time. Determining how to file a wrongful death claim does not have to be another difficulty for you to deal with as you manage your grief. 

Our attorneys are dedicated to pursuing the claims of our clients with the goal of obtaining the best possible results, whether through a settlement or jury verdict. Our experienced attorneys have represented thousands of injured Virginians since 1972, practicing in both state and federal courts. With vast litigation experience, we zealously represent the interests of our clients. Contact Tronfeld West & Durrett today.  


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