Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Virginia?

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The unexpected and sudden loss of a family member is never easy to accept. The loss is especially traumatic when your loved one’s death was due to someone else’s negligence.

In this situation, certain family members may have the right to claim damages against the at-fault party. To find out who can file a lawsuit under the Virginia wrongful death statute, you need to speak with an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer.

At Lantz & Robins, P.C., we have decades of experience assisting Virginia clients with all their personal injury needs, including wrongful death lawsuits.

Like other states, Virginia has its own laws on who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. These can be complicated claims to pursue, which is why you want an experienced lawyer who can help.

Statutory Beneficiaries Can File Under the Wrongful Death Statute in Virginia

Virginia allows those who are defined as statutory beneficiaries to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. There is a specific order of priority regarding who can bring a claim. And the lawsuit itself can be filed only by the personal representative for the estate.

Individual family members cannot file. Although the estate representative is the one filing, any financial recovery will go to the appropriate beneficiaries. 

Surviving spouses and children are the family members who have the first right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Virginia. If a child is deceased, the surviving grandchildren may bring a claim.

If the deceased had no surviving spouse and no children or grandchildren, then the decedent’s surviving parents, siblings, and any other family member in the decedent’s household who was financially dependent can bring a wrongful death claim.

If the decedent has no children or grandchildren but has a surviving spouse and both parents, then the surviving spouse and parents could bring the wrongful death action.

In the rare event there is no surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, or any other family who primarily depended on the decedent, then Virginia’s estate laws will apply to identify the person’s next of kin.

It’s important to point out that Virginia law recognizes relatives as someone related to the deceased by blood, marriage, or adoption. This can even include stepchildren.

However, some parents are prohibited from filing a claim on behalf of their deceased child. If a parent had their rights terminated or had their child placed with a foster home, they are not entitled to bring a wrongful death claim or benefit financially. 

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

As with other types of personal injury claims, Virginia law requires that you file a wrongful death lawsuit within the statute of limitations. In most cases, this is two years from the date of the person’s death, not the incident or accident date. If you fail to file within two years, the court will likely dismiss your entire case.

Contact a Virginia Wrongful Death Attorney

Determining the right party to bring a wrongful death claim can be challenging in some cases. If you believe you have a valid wrongful death claim, it’s best to speak with an experienced attorney first who can help guide you through the process.

Contact Lantz & Robins, P.C., today to schedule an initial consultation. We know this is a terrible time for your family. Let us navigate the claims process for you and help you hold the responsible party accountable for your loved one’s death.

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Mr. Robins is an active member of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and the American Association for Justice, groups that are dedicated to making transportation, healthcare, and workplaces safer for average people. Born and raised in Richmond, Mr. Robins graduated from the University of North Carolina and earned his law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University.

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