Burnett & Williams

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Virginia

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Losing a loved one, especially due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful actions, is unimaginable. In such heartbreaking situations, grieving families in Virginia have the legal right to seek justice and compensation through a wrongful death claim. Pursuing a wrongful death claim can be an emotionally challenging process. Working with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can guide you through the legal proceedings and protect your rights is crucial.

Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in Virginia

In Virginia, a wrongful death claim arises when another individual or entity’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct causes a person’s death. These claims are governed by statute. Pursuant to Virginia Code Section 8.01-50, only a duly qualified personal representative of the decedent’s estate has the legal standing to initiate a wrongful death claim. The family members eligible to receive a distribution damages awarded pursuant to 8.01-50 are specified under Virginia Code Section 8.01-53. The class of family members entitled to recover are referred to as statutory beneficiaries or beneficiaries. 

Although an actionable wrongful death claim can arise from any number of negligent, reckless, or intentional acts that result in the death of another, motor vehicle accidents are among the most prevalent causes. In 2019, there were 797 fatalities in Virginia resulting from motor vehicle crashes alone, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim

To prevail in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must establish four key elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased, breached that duty, and that the breach caused the death, resulting in damages. Damages in the context of a wrongful death claim include: 

  1. Any sorrow, mental anguish, and loss of solace the beneficiaries suffer. Solace may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, and advice of the decedent. 
  2. Any reasonably expected loss in income of the decedent suffered by the beneficiaries; and
  3. Any reasonably expected loss of services, protection, care, and assistance the decedent provided to the beneficiaries. 

The Importance of Hiring a Wrongful Death Attorney

Navigating the legal complexities of a wrongful death claim can be overwhelming, particularly for grieving families already dealing with immense emotional distress. Hiring a skilled wrongful death attorney can provide numerous benefits during this difficult time.

  1. Knowledge and Expertise: A wrongful death attorney has an in-depth understanding of the laws surrounding wrongful death claims in Virginia. They have the knowledge and expertise to thoroughly investigate the case, preserve and gather evidence, and develop a winning legal strategy. Their experience negotiating with insurance companies, litigation, and trial advocacy, can significantly enhance the chance of a successful outcome.
  2. Emotional Support: Losing a loved one is emotionally devastating. A compassionate wrongful death attorney handles not only the legal aspects of the case but can also provide emotional support and guidance throughout the entire process. They can help alleviate some of the burdens associated with the legal proceedings, allowing the family to focus on healing and grieving.
  3. Thorough Investigation: A wrongful death attorney understands the importance of conducting a comprehensive investigation to establish liability and identify all applicable insurance coverage. This diligent investigation strengthens the case and ensures that all responsible parties are held accountable.
  4. Calculating Damages: Calculating damages in a wrongful death claim can be challenging. A skilled attorney can assess the economic and non-economic losses the surviving family members suffered and determine a fair and just compensation amount. They consider various factors such as medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future income, loss of companionship, and emotional pain and suffering.
  5. Statute of Limitations: It is important to note that wrongful death claims in Virginia are subject to a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations sets a strict deadline within which a claim must be filed. Missing this deadline can result in the forfeiture of the right to seek compensation. A wrongful death attorney ensures that all legal requirements are met and that the claim is filed within the specified timeframe.


Filing a wrongful death claim in Virginia is a complex process that requires legal expertise, compassion, and attention to detail. Working with an experienced wrongful death attorney gives grieving families the support they need to navigate legal proceedings and seek justice for their loved ones. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, it is crucial to consult with a wrongful death attorney to understand your rights and explore the available legal options. Contact us today to start a conversation.