Coping with the death of a loved one is difficult enough, but when the death was caused by the negligence of another, the distress can be deepened. Your pain becomes more complex as you believe that a “wrong” has occurred. You already have many decisions to make and when it comes to a possible lawsuit, you are not sure what your options are or where to begin. In our experience as Virginia wrongful death lawyers, many of our potential clients have difficulty in bringing a wrongful death claim, because of the emotion involved. That is why we try to make the process understandable and our goals and efforts very clear at the beginning, to explain the benefits that are being sought. What is Wrongful Death? A wrongful death lawsuit declared that the person was killed due to the negligence, misdeeds or other liability of others, whether an individual, corporation or entity. Wrongful death laws are designed to compensate the surviving dependents or beneficiaries, who are entitled to monetary damages as a result of the defendant’s conduct. Causes of Wrongful Death… Wrongful death claims can arise from many different causes, including auto accidents and dangerous products. Some examples are:
- Doctor Negligence
- Reckless Behavior
- Reckless Driving
- Product Malfunction
- Unsafe Premises
Possible wrongful death settlements that can be awarded
We all know that money cannot ease the emotional pain of losing a loved one, but it can reduce the financial burdens that accompany the loss. Wrongful death claims seek compensation for families of the deceased to cover the following:
- Medical Bills
- Funeral Expenses – immediate expenses associated with the death
- Loss of Income and loss of future income earnings
- Lost benefits- including Social Security, life insurance & retirement plans
- Pain & Suffering- including loss of support or companionship
- Property damage, if applicable
- Punitive Damages
When do you need to take action?
Wrongful death lawsuits are subject to the statute of limitations, which requires a lawsuit to be filed or the claim resolved within a specific time, or the claim will be forever barred.
What should you do now?
If you or a loved one has lost a family member due to the neglect of another, then you may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This area of the law is very complex and you don’t want to do anything that may weaken your case. Don’t enter into any agreements until you’ve consulted with an experienced wrongful death attorney. Put The Joel Bieber Firm to work for you. Let us begin our investigation to collect important evidence to establish all the at-fault parties. This may include a driver, a road designer, a manufacturer, or some other cause. We will also discuss the relationship of family, dependents, members of an extended family, and whether a “guardian” is necessary. Contact the Virginia Wrongful Death Lawyers at The Joel Bieber Firm to discuss the possible claim at 1-800-451-6393.
WHAT IS MY CASE WORTH?
Frequently Asked Questions
A wrongful death lawyer handles wrongful death cases, which can be sensitive and complex, but a wrongful death lawyer has the skills required.
Wrongful death lawyers are well versed in the law and procedures associated with wrongful death cases. They use their knowledge and experience to handle these types of cases.
A wrongful death lawyer will thoroughly investigate the cause of your loved one’s death. One of the biggest and most important parts of a wrongful death lawsuit is determining why an individual died, what caused it, and who’s to blame.
Wrongful death lawyers pursue compensation on your behalf. While money can never bring a loved one back, it can help relieve some of the financial stress brought on by an untimely passing. An attorney can use the case details to determine how much the case is worth and seek fair financial recovery.
Wrongful death lawyers not only provide valuable legal assistance, but they are also reliable, caring, and compassionate. They fully understand the troubles of losing a loved one and aim to help make it right.
A wrongful death lawyer is a type of personal injury lawyer. However, there are a few core differences between a typical personal injury lawsuit and a case for wrongful death.
A personal injury involves suffering harm due to someone else’s wrongdoing. Injuries often result from someone’s negligent or intentional action or inaction. Wrongful death is a type of personal injury, as the person has passed away at the hands of another.
Personal injury law exists to protect victims who have suffered harm due to another’s actions. It allows victims to hold the individual accountable while pursuing financial compensation for their tangible and intangible losses.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit, including wrongful death, requires special knowledge and skill. A wrongful death attorney knows how to properly handle these types of injury cases and seek the compensation a victim’s family is owed.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the lawyer can take on the most critical tasks of fighting for justice on the victim’s behalf and obtaining fair compensation for the losses, both financial and otherwise, that the family has endured.
Because every wrongful death case differs, there is no average settlement amount. The value of a wrongful death case depends upon the details of the case.
Damages available for wrongful death cases can either be economic, non-economic, or in some cases, punitive.
Economic damages include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of the victim’s earnings
- Loss of the victim’s benefits
- The value of goods and services the victim could provide
Non-economic damages can include:
- The surviving family’s pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of love, companionship, and guidance
To determine how much a wrongful death lawsuit is worth, it’s important to look at certain factors, including the following:
- The financial damages the victim’s family has endured
- The intangible losses the family suffered due to their loss
- The victim’s income and benefits
- How many dependents the victim has and their ages
It is difficult to imagine putting a price tag on a person’s life. While it is a challenging task, a wrongful death lawyer must determine how much the damages amount to in order to pursue fair compensation.
There are several ways to find a wrongful death lawyer.
First and foremost, you can ask trusted individuals, including family, friends, or coworkers, for a recommendation. It’s always helpful to get recommendations and hear people’s personal experiences while working with an attorney.
If friends and family do not have recommendations, you can rely on internet searches. Using helpful keywords like “wrongful death lawyer near me” or “wrongful death attorney [your city]” can yield various results. You can visit lawyers’ websites and narrow down your search depending on your personal criteria.
You can also use a lawyer referral service. Every state bar has a designated phone number you can call to get help finding lawyers in your city. There are also lawyer referral websites.
If you find more than one wrongful death attorney that suits your needs, you can set up consultations. During initial meetings, you can get to know the lawyer and get their legal opinion.
It’s important to hire a wrongful death attorney that meets your needs and those of your case and one with whom you feel comfortable working.
You are not legally required to hire a wrongful death lawyer. You are fully within your right to handle your lawsuit pro se, meaning representing yourself. However, in most cases, individuals with legal representation fare better than those without.
When you handle your own case, you can expect to be treated the same way a lawyer managing your case would. The big difference is an attorney has experience handling wrongful death cases and knows the law well.
A wrongful death lawyer can take on the most critical tasks, including:
- Drafting court documents
- Filing your lawsuit
- Determining cause and liability
- Collecting evidence
- Calculating the value of your case
- Handling settlement negotiations
- Representing you in court
If you’ve never had to deal with lawsuits or courtroom procedures, navigating a wrongful death case can be difficult. A wrongful death lawyer can help protect your rights as they fight for justice on your behalf. Working with an attorney can also help ensure you get the fairest possible compensation for your losses.
Wrongful death cases begin with a consultation with an attorney who focuses on personal injury and wrongful death claims. They evaluate the facts of your case, and once they accept you as a client, they begin their own investigation into the matter.
And after that proving liability is the crux of a personal injury or wrongful death case. Proving liability involves either demonstrating that the party that caused the accident (the defendant) meets the legal criteria for negligence or determining that the defendant’s actions or lack of oversight caused the fatal accident.
In order to successfully win your case, your wrongful death lawyer must prove each of the four elements of negligence.
Once your wrongful death attorney has determined that your case qualifies as a wrongful death, they will then send a demand letter to the other party and their attorney. Demand letters are formal documents that the aggrieved party sends the at-fault party to request payment to right the wrong.
Not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Whether you’re a relative or a close friend, it doesn’t mean you’re legally entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit or benefit from the compensation recovered.
The people entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit can vary depending on state law. In many states, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the personal representative of the victim’s estate on behalf of the surviving family.
A wrongful death lawsuit is filed for the benefit of certain family members, including:
Who ultimately benefits from a wrongful death lawsuit depends on state law and what survivors the victim has.
For example, if the victim has a surviving spouse, the spouse would receive any benefits. If they didn’t have a spouse but had children, the children would receive the benefits. If the victim was young and had neither a spouse nor children, their parents would likely benefit from the lawsuit.
If you’re unsure who is able to file a wrongful death lawsuit, a wrongful death attorney can help.
Unfortunately, you're not guaranteed to win when you file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there are certain ways your wrongful death lawyer can strengthen your case to improve your chances of winning.
Your lawyer will need to prove liability to establish that the defendant caused your loved one’s wrongful death. Most wrongful death cases involve negligence, meaning your attorney must satisfy the elements of negligence, including the following:
Duty: The responsible party owed your loved one a duty of care
Breach: The responsible party breached their duty
Causation: Their actions caused your loved one’s death
Damages: You suffered damages as a result of your loss
Evidence can significantly help build your case. The most crucial evidence for wrongful death claims is medical documentation. Medical records, doctor’s notes, prescriptions, and everything related to your loved one’s medical care can help the case substantially. Evidence of financial losses, like bills, is also extremely helpful in proving damages.
Having a wrongful death lawyer handling your case can maximize your chances of winning your case and receiving fair financial compensation.
Liability determines who is financially responsible for covering the costs associated with a loss.
The liable party depends on the details of the case. Liable parties can vary, but in many wrongful death cases, the following could be liable for a victim’s death:
Manufacturers of medical devices
The driver who caused the accident
The manufacturer or distributor of a vehicle or vehicle part
The individual who overserved an impaired driver
There are unlimited possibilities for liable parties in a wrongful death lawsuit, as it all rests upon the case itself.
The liable party’s insurance company might end up paying for a wrongful death lawsuit if the party had insurance coverage. If there is no insurance, the responsible party would be personally responsible for paying.
When the insurance pays for a wrongful death lawsuit, it can seem unfair that the liable party themselves does not have to pay for what they did out of pocket. However, collecting from an insurance company can mean a more sizable settlement than the one you could receive from a party with limited assets.
Generally, wrongful death settlements are not taxable, as they are not considered income.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) applies the Code of Federal Regulations, indicating items excluded from gross income. A wrongful death lawsuit settlement would fall under “compensation for injuries or sickness” because this money is paid as compensation for a personal injury.
Some exceptions could exist, though. If you receive punitive damages, the compensation that you receive could be taxable as “other income.”
While compensatory damages compensate the victim’s family, punitive damages punish the defendant for their wrongdoing and deter any similar wrongdoing in the future.
For example, if your settlement is for $5 million, and the entire amount is compensatory damages, it would not be taxable. However, if the settlement were $3 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages, you’d have to pay taxes on the $2 million, but not the $3 million.
Discuss your doubts or questions about taxes for your wrongful death lawsuit settlement with your attorney.
Different attorneys charge for their services based on the area of law they practice and personal preference.
It’s common for some attorneys to charge hourly for every hour they work on your case. When a lawyer charges hourly, they usually require a large retainer once hired before they begin working on your case.
Personal injury lawyers, on the other hand, do not charge hourly. These attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. When you hire a lawyer that works on contingency, you’re not responsible for any out-of-pocket costs, and your lawyer will not send you invoices.
Working on contingency means your attorney covers all costs associated with your case, like court costs, and does not charge you hourly for their services. Instead, they receive a percentage of your settlement.
Your lawyer will reveal upfront the percentage they would receive and discuss any fees you may be responsible for before you sign a contract, so you know what to expect. What you ultimately pay your wrongful death lawyer will depend on your settlement.