• mobile
Select Page

Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions

Losing a loved one is never easy. But grieving the loss of someone when their death was caused by someone else’s negligence can be extremely painful. Nothing you can do will bring your loved one back. However, filing a wrongful death claim can help to hold the other party accountable for their actions, provide you with the funds necessary to move forward with your life, and hopefully help to prevent this avoidable tragedy from reoccurring.

There is much to understand about filing a lawsuit for wrongful death. Here are some frequently asked questions.

Middle-aged man with sad expression sitting on couch

Q: What is wrongful death?

A: A wrongful death occurs when someone causes the death of another person through either negligence or an intentional act. In order to be able to file a claim for wrongful death, the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death must have been of the nature that they would have had a claim for personal injury if they had survived.

Q: What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

A: A wrongful death lawsuit is essentially a personal injury claim that is brought on behalf of the injured individual who is no longer with us to bring the claim themselves. One or more “statutory beneficiaries” must file the wrongful death claim. A beneficiary is a person or legal entity who you designate to receive your assets after you pass.

For instance, when you purchase a life insurance policy you will appoint a beneficiary. Then when you pass, this person or legal entity you appointed will receive payment from your insurance policy. 

Q: What are common causes of wrongful death?

A: Unfortunately, there are many causes of wrongful death. Some of the most common causes include: 

  • Product defects;
  • Premises accidents;
  • Occupational hazards/exposure;
  • Auto accidents (car, truck, motorcycle, etc.);
  • Birth injuries;
  • Abuse or neglect at assisted living or nursing home facilities;
  • Criminal actions such as shootings or stabbings; and
  • Medical malpractice.

One of the most common types of injuries that results in wrongful death is traumatic brain injury. Any of the above mentioned common causes could result in head trauma, such as a concussion, and lead to traumatic brain injury and wrongful death.

Q: Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

A: Not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Surviving family members must be the ones to bring a suit for wrongful death. Commonly, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate will be appointed and responsible for such a claim. 

It’s also important to understand that not every death constitutes a wrongful death – even when committed by accident. The case in question must meet specific guidelines in order for it to be eligible.

Under Virginia state law, one or more statutory beneficiaries must file a wrongful death claim. Statutory beneficiaries include family members or those who are considered dependents of the deceased individual. Such individuals include:

  • A surviving spouse;
  • Surviving children or grandchildren;
  • Surviving parents and siblings;
  • A relative of the deceased person’s who is a dependent of theirs and shares the same household; or
  • Any surviving family members who are entitled to inherit the decedent’s property under state intestacy laws (default laws which govern estates when a will or estate plan does not exist).

There is a specific order under which Virginia allows these surviving individuals to file a wrongful death claim. The initial right to file a claim belongs to the deceased’s surviving spouse, children, and grandchildren. However, if none of these individuals survive the deceased, the next in line to bring a wrongful death claim include surviving parents, siblings, and dependents. Again, if none of these individuals outlive the deceased, the right to file for wrongful death goes to whoever is entitled to inherit next under the state’s estate laws.

When there are no children, but only a surviving spouse and surviving parent(s), both the spouse and the parent(s) can file the claim together. However, it’s important to note that if the parent(s) abandoned the deceased when the deceased was a child, Virginia prevents them from filing a wrongful death claim or recovering damages through such a claim. 

Q: What types of damages are available in a wrongful death suit?

A: Damages may be available in a wrongful death claim in order to compensate for the losses incurred. These damages are monetary, meaning that money would be awarded. Under Virginia law, damages for a wrongful death claim may include:

  • Medical expenses for the deceased prior to their death;
  • Reasonable funeral and burial expenses;
  • The value of the decedent’s lost wages and benefits, including those that could have reasonably been expected had they lived;
  • Loss of the deceased’s care, companionship, comfort, society, advice, guidance, and all of the other things that the deceased has done in their work or role within the family, known simply as “kindly offices”; 
  • Mental anguish and suffering; and
  • Punitive damages, which are not intended to compensate the family but rather to punish the defendant when they acted with “willful or wanton” conduct towards the deceased. Willful or wanton conduct is that which is deliberate and intended to cause harm or shows conscious disregard for the safety of others or their property.

Under the state statute, the jury or judge has the freedom to award such damages as are considered “fair and just.”

Close-up of woman hands comforting another pair of hands

Q: How are wrongful death damages calculated?

A: Damages for wrongful death are calculated by first adding up monetary damages related to the death of the deceased. This then goes on to become the basis by which damages for pain and suffering are determined. Then your attorney as well as the defendant’s insurance company will use one of two methods (the multiplier method or the per diem method) to determine the actual amount.

Just because one can recover all of the above damages in a wrongful death lawsuit does not mean that they will recover all of them. There are other things that can impact the value of a wrongful death lawsuit. Such elements include:

  • The degree of damages suffered: The court looks at things such as whether the deceased had dependents, their occupation and income, etc.
  • The degree of fault and liability of the defendant: Virginia is a pure contributory negligence rule state. This means that in order for a defendant to be held liable the plaintiff must have not contributed whatsoever to their injuries.
  • Available insurance: The court will look at the amount of compensation that is available under the defendant’s insurance policy as well as their personal assets. Without an insurance policy and assets, loved ones may never be able to recover anything – even if they would be entitled to it.

Q: How are wrongful death settlements paid out?

A: When the at-fault party’s insurance company pays, they send a check to the wrongful death attorney(s) involved. The attorney will then deduct their fees before paying the remainder to the plaintiffs.

It’s important to differentiate between the plaintiff’s and the deceased’s estate. No money will be given to the estate. It’s also notable that wrongful death settlements are not subject to income, inheritance, or estate taxes. 

Q: What is needed to prove wrongful death?

A: In order to prove wrongful death, the elements that must be proven are the same as those that would be required had the deceased survived:

  1. Negligence. The deceased’s death was caused in part or in whole by the negligence, careless, or reckless actions of the defendant. 
  2. Breach of duty. The defendant must have owed a duty to the deceased and failed to uphold their duty as a result of their negligent actions.
    For instance, a lifeguard has a duty to watch the pool in order to prevent injury or death. If a lifeguard is texting on their phone, the lifeguard has breached this duty.
  3. Causation. The defendant’s negligence must have caused the death of the deceased.
  4. Damages. The deceased’s death results in quantifiable damages as previously mentioned (medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of income, etc.)

To prove all four elements will require sufficient evidence.

Q: How can a wrongful death attorney help?

A: As you can likely see, there are many different steps and factors that go into proving a wrongful death claim. From talking to experts and witnesses to understanding the relevant laws and strategizing, an experienced wrongful death attorney can help.

With potential mediation, settlements, and a trial, wrongful death attorneys can help to advise and inform every step of the way. They will help to establish a strategy for your case based upon the facts and evidence. 

Q: How long do I have to file a wrongful death suit?

A: Unfortunately, you have a limited amount of time to file a claim for wrongful death. A wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the date of the deceased individual’s death. If someone misses this period of time, known as the “statute of limitations,” they are banned from bringing the claim later on. 

Q: When should I contact a wrongful death attorney?

A: Since there is a statute of limitations for when you are legally allowed to file a wrongful death claim, it’s important that you contact a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you contact a lawyer and file a claim, the better chance you have of preserving any and all evidence. 

Hire a Virginia Wrongful Death Lawyer

As the largest personal injury firm on the peninsula and one of the largest in the state of Virginia, Smith Law Center, in Hampton, VA, understands wrongful death lawsuits and works hard to get the case results that you deserve. 

Attorneys and brothers Stephen and Howard Smith, who operate the firm, strive to provide quality legal representation to those who have fallen victim to another party’s negligent behavior. 

Mr. Stephen Smith, who has more than four decades of legal experience, has significant experience and recognition in the field of traumatic brain injury (TBI). His extensive work in the field of TBI, including being awarded the largest mild TBI verdict in the world, has afforded him the knowledge and understanding of wrongful death that often accompanies a TBI injury.

Mr. Howard Smith, who has five decades of legal experience, is also well known for his numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts that he has received across the U.S. In addition to auto accidents, trucking crashes, medical malpractice, and brain injuries, he focuses heavily on cases involving wrongful death. 

If you believe that your loved one has been killed due to the negligence of another, you may have a case for wrongful death. Contact Smith Law Center today at (757) 244-7000 to see how we can help.

At Smith Law Center we recognize that nothing anyone can do will ever make up for the fact that your loved one is gone. However, it’s important that you be compensated in some manner in order to be able to move forward with your life and hold the at-fault party accountable. 

Best lawyers
American Board of Trial Advocates
Brain Injury Association
Brain Injury Association
Best lawyers
American Board of Trial Advocates
Brain Injury Association
Brain Injury Association
icon headset


Your legal questions answered, completely free of charge.

icon target


We are one of Virginia’s largest and most successful law firms.

icon law


There are absolutely no out-of-pocket fees for filing a claim.


Use the simple form below to send a message directly to our lawyers. We will respond within 1 hour or less during business hours.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

icon headset


Your legal questions answered, completely free of charge.

icon law


There are absolutely no out-of-pocket fees for filing a claim.

If you or a relative had a severe reaction to military housing mold, it might be time to talk with a toxic mold lawyer. Mold is everywhere, and can be dangerous. Researchers have linked mold to serious respiratory illnesses in some individuals.

Smith Law Center may be able to help if a property owner failed to keep you safe from mold in your military housing. We are one of Virginia’s oldest and most successful firms. We know how to hold negligent property owners responsible, especially when the military is involved.

Call us at (757) 244-700 or contact us online to set up a free consultation. There’s no fee for learning more about Virginia mold laws, your rights, and your legal options.

Mold in Military Housing

Black mold in military housing became widely known when Reuters published an investigation in 2018. Since then, the Department of Defense and the housing providers were supposed to take steps to improve the situation.

Unfortunately, a 2020 audit by the DoD Office of Inspector General found many issues, including the need for mold remediation, still persist.

Monetary Awards in Military Housing Toxic Mold Cases

If the property owner lets toxic mold run wild and continue to cause you harm, talk with our toxic mold attorneys about filing a lawsuit.

You may receive financial compensation for:

Service members and their families do not receive different types of damages than civilians. These are civil lawsuits in traditional courts of law.

Military Housing Mold Toxicity Symptoms

The Institute of Medicine discovered there was evidence connecting exposure to indoor mold with:

  • Upper respiratory tract symptoms;
  • Coughing;
  • Wheezing;
  • Asthma symptoms in individuals with asthma; and
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals with weak immune systems.

There is also limited evidence that mold causes respiratory illnesses in healthy children or causes people to develop asthma.

Understanding Exposure to Toxic Mold in Military Housing

The topic of toxic mold is complicated. This Is in part because the term “toxic mold” isn’t accurate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains mold isn’t toxic or poisonous. However, some molds are toxigenic, which means they produce toxins called mycotoxins.

Mold is common in military housing because it’ll grow anywhere there’s moisture. That includes on and inside walls, carpet, upholstery, wallpaper, and heating and air conditioning systems. This is especially pronounced in humid conditions such as those present in Virginia.

Some people have no difficulties around mold, even large infestations in their homes. Other individuals are sensitive to molds, including those that produce mycotoxins. Someone can have a severe reaction when exposed to a large amount of mold indoors.

People may be more likely to experience mold toxicity symptoms if they have:

  • Allergies,
  • An underlying lung disease,
  • Immune suppression,
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder,
  • Asthma, or
  • Another chronic respiratory disease.

Common Types of Military Housing Mold

When you’re trying to learn more from the CDC and other resources, you’ll see the word “fungus” a lot. Mold is a type of fungus, which is something that exists all around us. Fungi are living organisms different from animals, plants, and bacteria. There are over 200,000 types of fungi and over 100,000 types of molds.

If you discovered mold in your military housing, it could be Cladosporium, Penicillium, Stachybotrys chartarum, Aspergillus, or many other types. Stachybotrys is what everyone knows as black mold. Aspergillus is a common indoor fungus, which releases mycotoxins and can cause illness. Your symptoms may resemble common allergy or asthma symptoms.

Who is Liable for Military Housing Mold?

Since 1996, most military housing has come under the management of private companies:

  • Belfour Beatty Communities: Fort Eustis and Fort Story/li>
  • Lincoln Military Housing: Dahlgren, Little Creek, Naval Station Norfolk, Northwest Annex, Oceana, Portsmouth, Quantico, and Yorktown/li>
  • Hunt Military Communities: Fort Lee and Langley AFB

Outside of Virginia, Lendlease and Corvias Military Living are two more housing providers. Together, these five companies formed the Military Housing Association.

Military families living in on-base housing must take their complaints to their private management company — not the military. The company is responsible for providing habitable conditions and making repairs, including mold remediation.

If you’re unsure about your rights, review your state law and local ordinances about mold. In general, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to provide a habitable unit, which means it has to be safe to live in. A unit isn’t safe if it’s causing a tenant health issues due to mold.

The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act requires landlords to disclose if there’s mold in the written report of the move-in inspection. If a tenant discovers visible mold in the unit, then the Act requires the landlord to remove the mold and relocate the tenant until it’s gone at no additional cost to the tenant.

Unfortunately, many families find their housing providers aren’t receptive to complaints. Attorney Stephen M. Smith has handled many mold lawsuits against military housing providers who fail to abide by their lease terms and the law when it comes to mold remediation and other hazards.

Other Hazards in Military Housing

Many service members and their families deal with uncomfortable, if not hazardous, conditions in privatized military housing, including:

Lead Paint: Lead-based paint can cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, irritability, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, organ damage, and in extreme cases, death.

Asbestos: Exposure to asbestos harms a person’s lungs, and can lead to lung fibrosis (scarring), lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Radon: Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. It naturally forms underground, however cracks and gaps in buildings lead to over-exposure indoors.

Poor Water Quality: Dozens of military sites have water with detectable levels of harmful chemicals.

Other issues involve rodent or insect infestations, pesticides, and faulty electrical wiring.

What Happens When a Lot of People Get Sick?

Sometimes mold exposure impacts a single individual or family. However, when the mold spreads throughout military housing, it can impact hundreds or thousands of people.

Occasionally, a large enough group of people are injured to allow for a class action or mass tort lawsuit. A class action lawsuit is one where a class representative acts as the plaintiff on behalf of the group of hurt individuals. Not every victim participates in the lawsuit. There are rules about when a group is big and similar enough to create a class action.

Mass tort lawsuits are different. When there are fewer plaintiffs who have their own set of circumstances, each person files a lawsuit. For efficiency’s sake, one or a couple of law firms may represent most plaintiffs, and the lawsuits are consolidated in a federal court.

Call the Military Housing Mold Lawyers at Smith Law Center for Help Right Away

Mold cases come about in a few ways. You or a loved one may start getting sick, and after weeks or months of struggling to find answers, you finally realize your military housing has a mold infestation. In other cases, you struggle with visible mold and then become ill.

Once you connect the illness with the mold, it’s time to talk with a toxic mold lawyer. Reaching out to an attorney early helps you build a strong compensation claim. We know how to collect evidence, identify who is liable, and craft a successful argument for a settlement or court award.

Attorney Stephen M. Smith has decades of experience handling injury claims and has been internationally recognized for his work. He has litigated cases involving catastrophic injuries and complex legal and scientific issues. In 2019, he was inducted into the Virginia Lawyers Hall of Fame.

You’re in good hands when you come to Smith Law Center for help. Reach out online or call (757) 244-7000 to schedule your 100% free consultation.

Military Housing Mold Lawsuits: FAQs

icon target


We are one of Virginia’s largest and most successful law firms.



Use the simple form below to send a message directly to our lawyers. We will respond within 1 hour or less during business hours.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.