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Wrongful death means what it says. These claims are based on a negligent act causing the death of another person. The circumstances and case facts are as varied as life itself. These claims are frequently the result of truck and tractor trailer wrecks, or bus crashes or pedestrian-vehicle crashes or bicycle accidents. Many times, wrongful death claims involve drunk driving, and if so, the victim's family can also recover punitive damages. Statistics for the number of crashes causing fatalities in Virginia and the District of Columbia are found on this website. But wrongful death claims also originate from workplace accidents, fire or asphyxiation by smoke in house and apartment fires, malfunctioning products, medical malpractice and even slip and falls. As with all other claims, not only does the plaintiff need to establish who was at fault (liability), but there also has to be adequate insurance coverage. As stated above, because both Virginia and the District of Columbia allow drivers to purchase only $25,000 of insurance coverage for death or injury, many death claims are resolved for inadequate sums of money. One important piece of advice is to insure yourself for as much insurance as you can afford. This will provide some degree of back up if the negligent vehicle operator causes catastrophic injury or death to you or your loved one or your passenger. The insurance coverage which will provide this protection is called uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
Wrongful death damages differ substantially between Virginia and the District of Columbia. In Virginia, the next of kin, which include spouse and children, or in their absence parents and siblings, can recover for wrongful death. The awardable damages are listed in Virginia Code § 8.01-52. They include sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent; compensation for reasonably expected loss of (i) income of the decedent and (ii) services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent; expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in death; reasonable funeral expenses; and punitive damages if the defendant is guilty of willful or wanton conduct, such as driving while highly intoxicated or texting.
Damages for wrongful death in the District of Columbia do not include sorrow, mental anguish or loss of society or companionship, comfort or guidance. Wrongful death damages in the District of Columbia are limited to the financial loss each beneficiary has suffered. This loss requires a calculation of financial support the deceased furnished or could have been expected to provide to each beneficiary. Also, to be considered are any gifts and other contributions which the deceased could have reasonably been expected to provide to each beneficiary had the deceased not died. To determine these amounts, one would look at the earnings and earning capacity of the deceased and the probable joint life expectancy of the deceased and each of the beneficiaries. Joint life expectancy means the time during which the deceased and each of the beneficiaries would both have been alive. Life expectancy requires consideration of the age, health, occupation and station of life of the parties. Also awardable is the reasonable value of any services that the deceased would have provided to each beneficiary over their joint life expectancies. District of Columbia law requires that inflation on living expenses and wage earnings be considered. The amount calculated as the net financial loss must then be discounted to present cash value. The present value calculation requires a determination of a lump sum payment which will compensate each beneficiary today for his or her future financial losses suffered as a result of the deceased's death, after considering inflation and interest rates.
If the decedent survived the accident for any period of time, it is advisable to also file a "survival action."
The "survival statute" provides that the lawsuit is not for the benefit of the plaintiff or another particular individual. The lawsuit is brought on behalf of the deceased's estate, and asserts the legal claim that arose prior to the death.
In the District of Columbia, survival action damages include conscious pain and suffering experienced by the deceased between the time of injury and the time of death, financial loss suffered by the deceased as a result of the injuries, including the value of reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses, reasonable compensation for any bodily injuries, mental anguish, disabilities, disfigurement and/or deformities, and inconvenience and discomfort experienced by the deceased between the time of the injury and the time of death. Also recoverable is the amount of money the deceased would have accumulated over the course of his/her normally expected lifetime, adjusted by inflation, interest rates and taxes to reduce that sum to a net present value.
Punitive damages for egregious conduct causing the wrongful death and pre-death suffering of the decedent are recoverable in the District of Columbia.
This is not an exhaustive review of wrongful death damages in Virginia or the District of Columbia. Because there are always many other issues, such as the statute of limitations, the need for immediate investigation and securing of evidence, and the retention of experts, a personal injury attorney should be consulted as soon as possible.
The Law Offices of Jeremy Flachs represent the surviving family members of loved ones who have received fatal injuries due to the recklessness or incompetence of others. We have a long history of securing compensation for wrongful death claims in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. Damages for wrongful death can include funeral expenses, medical bills, loss of future earnings, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and punitive damages from the parties responsible for a loved one’s death. The elements of a wrongful death recovery differ significantly between Virginia and the District of Columbia. If you or a loved one has recently suffered a loss due to the actions of others, contact the Law Offices of Jeremy Flachs for a free legal consultation today.
A Wrongful Death suit can be brought against anyone who caused the death of another due to negligence, recklessness, or lack of skill. This includes drunk driving, reckless driving, nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, defective products or machinery, premises liability or physical assaults. In Virginia, in most instances the claim must be settled or a law suit filed within two (2) years of the wrongful act causing death. In the District of Columbia (DC), the claim must be settled or a law suit filed within one (2) years of the act causing death.Types of Wrongful Death Cases Drunk Driving
When a person makes the decision to get behind the wheel after he’s been drinking, he is engaging in a reckless and criminal act. Drunk drivers took the lives of 359 Virginians in 2004 alone.Reckless Driving
Alcohol consumption isn’t the only thing that causes deaths on our roads and highways. People who drive 20 miles or more over the speed limit or drive in excess of 80 miles an hour are engaging in reckless driving, and they are putting lives at risk. And it’s more widespread than you think. In 2002, Virginia State Police wrote 88,624 summons for reckless driving.Institutional Abuse
Cases of abuse and negligence in prisons and nursing homes are a common occurrence. Quite often, the result of these cases is wrongful death. Malnutrition, inadequate medical care and undertrained employees are rampant at these institutions. Medical professionals are required to administer the best medical care possible, regardless of who their patients are and their circumstances. If a loved one died while incarcerated or institutionalized, and the circumstances seem suspicious, contact Jeremy Flachs for a free legal consultation.Defective Products
Manufacturers of any product have a responsibility to the general public to ensure their products are not unreasonably dangerous. Unfortunately, there are many instances where this responsibility was ignored. Manufacturers have been known to use dangerous materials, use faulty or cheap assembly methods, or have failed to recognize potential dangers from misuse The reasons can be as simple as a mistake in the design or assembly process, but on occasion naked greed has been the contributing factor to thousands of product related deaths.
Products like asbestos, faulty intra-uterine devices, dangerous prescription drugs or poorly made automobiles have all resulted in deaths in Virginia and the District of Columbia (DC). If you have recently suffered a loss due to a product-related injury, The Law Offices of Jeremy Flachs can help.Law Offices of Jeremy Flachs: Fighting for Survivors of Wrongful Death Cases in Virginia and D.C.
Anyone in Northern Virginia or Washington, DC (District of Columbia) who has suffered a loss due to wrongful death is eligible to pursue adequate compensation, but it’s rarely an open and shut case. People who bring wrongful death cases to court are expected to move quickly, and that can be difficult when they are in mourning and disoriented. An experienced attorney that can move a case forward with certainty and decisiveness is a crucial step towards obtaining the damages that a family members will need to compensate for their loss.
Any death in any family is a tragedy. But the damage and sense of loss is multiplied when the death is the result of the careless actions of others. The Law Offices of Jeremy Flachs will fight for fair and just compensation. If you have recently lost a loved one due to the negligence, recklessness or carelessness of another, call The Law Offices of Jeremy Flachs.
Library for Wrongful Death
- Hospital Infection Deaths: A New Epidemic Description: According to a new study, hospital infections kill approximately 100,000 people every year. What are HMO's and hospital chains doing about it? Nothing.
Frequent Questions for Wrongful Death