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Wrongful Death Lawyers in Manassas, Virginia

Catastrophic incidents such as vehicular collisions, dangerous falls, and pedestrian crashes can be fatal. These types of incidents typically entail huge costs and take an extreme emotional toll on the family members left behind by ill-fated victims. When a life is lost because of another person’s negligence or recklessness, the incident may be the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party or parties.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is a type of  injury case that the surviving heirs of a decedent can file against persons who caused the fatal injuries of their loved one.

For a death to be considered ‘wrongful’, it must have been caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or negligence of another person or party, under circumstances that might be the basis of a personal injury lawsuit that the deceased party would have been able to file had they survived the incident. Further, wrongful death claims only allow certain individuals enumerated as “statutory beneficiaries” to recover in the lawsuit.

Who Can be Held Liable in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Any individual that negligently causes death can be held liable for a wrongful death claim. In addition to that individual, the corporation for which she/he works can also share the responsibility of the wrongful death claim. An example would be a truck driver who is operating a vehicle on behalf of a trucking company. The driver, who performed the negligent act that led to someone’s death is accountable, but the employer may too be responsible if the driver was acting under his employment as an employee.

Who Can File a West Virginia or Virginia Wrongful Death Claim?

West Virginia and Virginia legal codes specify the statutory beneficiaries (who are typically family members or dependents of the decedent) who may legally recover in a wrongful death claim. They include:

  • The surviving spouse
  • The children or the grandchildren of the decedent
  • The surviving parents and siblings of the decedent
  • Any relative who was the decedent’s household member and who was a dependent of the decedent (West Virginia only)

The statutory beneficiaries follow an order of priority in recovering in a wrongful death claim. Thus, under Virginia law, the decedent’s surviving spouse, children, and grandchildren take priority to recover. In the absence of the surviving spouse, child, or grandchild, the decedent’s surviving parents and siblings may then recover in court.

Statute of Limitations for West Virginia and Virginia Wrongful Death Claims

West Virginia and Virginia statutes specify a time limit of two years for filing a wrongful death claim in court. The 2-year prescriptive period starts from the time of the decedent’s death; otherwise, the claim may be barred due to the state’s statute of limitations.

A wrongful death claim needs to be pursued by the administrator of the estate. That person must to go to their local clerk’s office, where the person that was killed lived, and become qualified by the clerk of that court as the administrator of the estate. The estate then has the authority and the ability to pursue the wrongful death action, usually on behalf of the statutory beneficiaries.

Primarily, our firm has handled car-on-car collisions, tractor/trailer-on-car collisions, and tractor/trailer-on-motorcycle crashes. In addition, there are specific cases that we have filed on behalf of the deceased when they were over-served by a bar’s staff, and then allowed to drive off in their vehicles. In two cases we have handled, both young men were served well after they were intoxicated, and drove to their own deaths (West Virginia only). These extenuating circumstances will not be overlooked by our office as we seek redemption for their families.

If you lost a loved one in what may be a wrongful death accident, consult John today, so we can quickly assess your situation and< if warranted, take the appropriate action to preserve your right to compensation. If you are emotionally unable to meet with us, we completely understand. We will meet with a friend or family member initially to review your case promptly, while you take the time you need to grieve. Otherwise, we will simply take your statement when you are ready.

Claiming Compensation for Wrongful Death

After the death of a loved one, unforeseen and expensive bills related to the death can aggravate an already painful situation. Grieving family members may find it difficult to anticipate the financial future. While laws differ in each state, and in each case, the following types of compensation may usually be obtained:

  • Medical expenses related to the decedent’s injury or final illness
  • Lost wages and benefits, as well as the wages and benefits that the decedent might be reasonably expected to earn if the decedent had lived
  • Body transport costs, if the death happened in another state
  • Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of the decedent’s support, care, guidance, companionship, comfort, and advice
  • Sorrow and mental anguish

Incidents Leading to Wrongful Death Cases

The same types of incidents that provide a cause of action for personal injury lawsuits can also give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit. Motor vehicle collisions, medical malpractice, manufacturing defects, construction incidents, slip and fall, pedestrian crashes, and other negligent situations may entitle the decedents’ families to wrongful death compensation.

Importance of a Wrongful Death Attorney

By nature, wrongful death cases are often too complex to handle without an attorney. Depending on which state the wrongful death occurred in, an attorney will be responsible for meeting the burden of proof to submit on the statutory beneficiaries’ behalf.  We can often help cut through the red tape and get results.

An experienced wrongful death attorney can:

  • Help you prepare evidence necessary to prove your costs and damages
  • Engage experts who can provide important testimony in your favor
  • Help you attempt to recover the maximum value of compensation that you legally deserve

The more components involved in a wrongful death case, the more complicated it becomes. If someone is killed in a trucking accident, there are potential avenues to assess for the responsibility. This can include the actual driver, the owner/insurer of the cab, the trailer and the goods within. Many times, these are not operated by the same owners or covered by the same insurance companies. Our attorney will get to the bottom of each level of bureaucracy involved to deliver results.

At Whittington Law, we have helped many families recover from their tragic loss of a loved one. We understand how important it is to heal, and are available to understand the nuances of your case. Even if a settlement is determined outside of court, it still quite often must be approved by the court, and having an attorney on hand to ensure everything is in order is often important. We invite you to contact us online or call us today at (703) 257-5668 for a confidential consultation.

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© John D. Whittington, PC, 2017.

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