Under Virginia law, a wrongful death action can be brought when a person’s death is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of a person or corporation. If the deceased would have been able to file a personal injury action if he had survived, then a family member can file a wrongful death claim on his behalf. The right to file a wrongful death action is based on Virginia statutes. These laws give the right to sue for wrongful death due to many types of fatal accidents, including:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Premises liability accidents like slip and fall or drowning
- Other accidents caused by negligence
Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Under Virginia law, only surviving family members defined as statutory beneficiaries are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The law has a very specific order of who can sue. In addition, the lawsuit is not filed in the name of the deceased person or filed by the statutory beneficiaries. The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate files the lawsuit on behalf of the statutory beneficiaries. These beneficiaries are as follows:
- Spouses and children have the first right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If their parent is deceased, grandchildren can file the suit.
- If there is no spouse, and no children or grandchildren, then the parents, brothers, and sisters, and any other family member in the deceased person’s household who was dependent on him can file a wrongful death action.
- If the deceased person left a spouse but no children or grandchildren, the spouse and the deceased person’s parents can file a wrongful death claim.
- If the deceased person left no family members described above, other family members who would inherit under Virginia’s intestacy laws would have the right to file a wrongful death action.
Determining who can file a wrongful death action and the proper form of the lawsuit is complicated. If you need to file a wrongful death claim, you need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to guide you through the process. Call our Norfolk office to schedule your case evaluation to discuss your situation.