When a person or business causes the death of someone you love, the loss can affect every part of your life. From your daily schedule to your family dynamics, everything you know and have become accustomed to will change after the loss of an immediate family member.
You will also have to take responsibility for that person’s household contributions and try to find a way to replace the money they once earned for your family. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is an option for surviving dependent family members who lose a loved one through the negligence or wrongful acts of another party.
However, because Virginia has a different approach to wrongful death than many other states, you may actually need to file two separate lawsuits in some cases.
Wrongful death claims in Virginia do not include survival claims
When someone suffers a fatal injury because of a car crash or chemical exposure, they don’t always die immediately. People can suffer in pain for hours, days or even weeks before they finally succumb to an injury or illness caused by someone else.
In most states, family members can bring a survival action as part of the wrongful death claim. Basically, they inherit the right to seek compensation for pain and suffering on behalf of their deceased loved one. That is not what happens in Virginia.
A wrongful death claim only allows you to seek compensation for the impact of the loss on your life and the lives of other surviving family members. You can sue for lost wages, emotional suffering due to grief and the loss of household contributions, but not your loved one’s pain.
Survival actions give you justice for your loved one’s experience
The good news is that while you can’t include a survival action in a wrongful death claim, you may be able to file a separate, coordinating lawsuit for the suffering of your loved one before their death. Doing so will not only penalize the other party for their actions or lack thereof but will also help reduce the ongoing practical impact of your loss on the family.
Discussing the circumstances that led to your loved one’s death and what you think would be fair with an experienced personal injury attorney is often the first step toward seeking compensation after a tragedy.