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Virginia Wrongful Death Law Firm

The Smith Law Center is a wrongful death law firm that represents families who have lost a loved one by another’s accidental or negligent actions. There are a number of ways this tragedy can occur, often by car accidents, medical malpractice or a defective product. Whether the harmful actions of another were intentional or not, surviving loved ones have a right to seek justice in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Below, we’ve covered a few important topics and common questions regarding Virginia wrongful death lawsuits. If you do not find the information you’re looking for here, please feel free to contact our offices at (757) 695-9312. Your phone call is free, private and without obligation.

What is wrongful death?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim brought against a person, company or other entity for death resulting from negligence. It is a type of personal injury lawsuit filed in civil courts and is based on the premise that the death could have or should have been prevented. 

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Virginia law states that family members or dependents of the deceased person can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The courts follow a particular order in which family members are considered first for this process. Those who can file suit are as follows:

  1. Spouse, children or grandchildren of the deceased
  2. Parents, siblings or dependents of the deceased, including relatives
  3. Any other surviving family member entitled to inherit the deceased’s estate

There are exceptions to this structure. For example, parents who have lost or given up their parental rights may not file, which is outlined under Virginia Code section 8.01-53.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Damages

Three dark-haired girls sit on the steps of a doc with their backs turned and their arms around each other. Children of the deceased are among the first beneficiaries in a wrongful death lawsuit settlement.


It’s impossible to measure the loss of a precious life. However, there are monetary damages that bereaved loved ones can claim in a wrongful death lawsuit that may help appease the financial burden that comes during such a difficult time. These can include the survivors’ emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and the loss of the victim’s anticipated lifetime earnings.

The types of damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit are set out under Virginia Code § 8.01-52. Damages may include reimbursement or compensation for:

  • Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which can include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, and advice given by the decedent
  • Loss of future income
  • Loss of services, protection, care and assistance
  • Medical expenses incurred as a result of negligence
  • Funeral and associated expenses
  • Punitive damages when willful or malicious conduct has occurred

Unfortunately, a defendant’s insurance company may try to minimize the damages to avoid paying more. To make sure your family receives the compensation you are owed, it is in your best interest to get the help of a wrongful death law firm.

What is the wrongful death statute of limitations in Virginia?

The statute of limitations describes the time limit for bringing a personal injury lawsuit. In Virginia, families have two years from the date of the person’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Once this window of time has passed, victim’s families are no longer able to seek damages for their losses.

How are wrongful death settlements paid out?

Similar to filing the claim, the way a settlement is paid out in a wrongful death lawsuit follows a structure. This is also called the hierarchy or order of beneficiaries.

Before the beneficiaries receive compensation, a portion of the recovery goes to all relevant legal, medical, estate and memorial costs. This includes the contingency fee set by your wrongful death law firm, any hospital or medical costs related to the deceased person’s death, and funeral expenses.

After these fees are addressed, the sequence for payouts is as follows:

  1. The surviving spouse
  2. Children of the deceased person, in order of dependency
  3. Grandchildren of the deceased person
  4. Parents of the deceased
  5. Siblings of the deceased person
  6. Dependent relative household members

Typically, the defendant’s insurance company will pay the settlement. The amount will vary, yet when it exceeds the insurer’s policy limit, the defendant is responsible for covering the remainder.

How much is a typical wrongful death settlement worth?

We want to first assure families asking this question that it is okay to feel uncomfortable discussing it. We understand that financial burdens don’t simply disappear when a loved one is gone. In fact, they are often exacerbated by the loss. This is especially true when the person was the family’s sole provider, or when the death interferes with a surviving loved one’s earning capacity.

A widowed young woman holds her son as they look out the window with their backs turned. A wrongful death law firm can help you understand how much your settlement may be worth.


Because there are unique circumstances surrounding each family’s situation, it is nearly impossible to provide this answer without assessing individual case details. Additionally, bar regulations forbid lawyers from guaranteeing any type of outcome to clients.

That said, a wrongful death law firm will be able to give you an estimate for your case value based on a number of influencing factors. These will include:

The type of wrongful death lawsuit being filed. Whether you lost a loved one by a defective product such as a prescription drug, a work-related accident, or a drunk driving accident, varying case types will yield higher or lower settlements. Worker’s compensation lawsuits, for example, do not award damages for pain and suffering. On top of this, trial juries can shape the outcome of cases when negligence was clearly preventable, such as in drunk driving accidents.

Economic damages. These are all monetary costs associated with the loss of a person’s life. Courts measure economic damages in a host of different ways, such as projected income loss, medical bills, benefits, funeral or burial expenses, and so on. A wrongful death law firm may hire an expert to calculate these damages.

Non-economic damages. The emotional and relational void that losing a loved one creates is undoubtedly the greatest tragedy for families. In the legal world, it is often called “pain and suffering,” loss of companionship, loss of consortium, grief or diminished enjoyment of life for surviving loved ones. Depending on the state, laws may or may not allow a jury to award these types of damages.

Punitive damages. As the name indicates, punitive damages are charged as punishment when a negligent party’s actions were particularly indecent, shocking or offensive. A wrongful death law firm may demand punitive damages in a case where reckless or malicious behavior led to the death, such as a drunk driving accident.

The best way to understand your individual case value is to speak with a Virginia wrongful death lawyer. We will walk you through the process and leave no stone unturned when it comes to determining the highest possible value for your losses.

Contact a Virginia Wrongful Death Law Firm

At The Smith Law Center, our wrongful death lawyers have access to resources for calculating the full scope of your losses. Reach out to our attorneys today to learn what fair and just compensation your family deserves. You can start by either filling out this short form or calling our offices at (757) 695-9312.

A Few of Our Wrongful Death Settlements

Below are just a few examples of the case results we have achieved for our clients.

USPS Settles Suit in Fatal Traffic Crash
Awarded: $1,760,000.00
RICHMOND, Virginia – The family of a Richmond woman killed in a traffic crash on Interstate 64 near Laburnum Avenue settled against the U.S. Postal Service for $1.76 million.

Death of an Elderly Man Due to Faulty Auto Repairs by Auto Repair Company
Awarded: $1,000,000.00
NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia – An auto repair company paid $1,000,000.00 to the estate of a man for faulty vehicle repairs.

Estate of Woman in Truck Collision
Awarded: $700,000.00
ADA, Oklahoma – A trucking company paid $700,000.00 to the estate of a woman killed in a collision.

Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The link between a negligent action and a death may be obvious in certain situations, such as in a vehicle collision. Other times, it’s more challenging to prove, like when a dangerous drug triggers a heart attack, or if a strip mall owner fails to provide adequate security and a patron is shot on the premises.

Types of wrongful death lawsuits in Virginia include:

Traffic Accidents – Car, truck, motorcycle, and bus accidents claimed the lives of 843 people in Virginia in 2017, a 10 percent increase compared to 2016. Family members may bring wrongful death lawsuits against culpable motorists who have been killed due to the fault of another driver.

Boating and Maritime Accidents – This can include boating accidents of any kind.

Pedestrian and Cycling Accidents – Many cities in Hampton Roads and Virginia lack crosswalks and are dangerous places for pedestrians and cyclists. Virginia recorded 114 pedestrian fatalities in 2017, 78 of them in urban settings. There were 14 fatal cycling crashes.

Premises Liability – Slip and fall accidents are among the most common causes of traumatic brain injury. We have seen cases in which people have fallen on crumbling stairs and died. Tenants have died by carbon monoxide leaks due to the negligence of their landlords. Children have drowned in improperly secured swimming pools or fallen from substandard balconies at hotels.

Workplace Accidents – Workers in some industries face high mortality rates, including construction, fishing, trucking and sanitation. Shipyards regularly report fatal accidents as well as falls from scaffolding, railroad accidents and electrocutions.

Dangerous Chemical Exposure – Workers who have been exposed to asbestos at shipyards or in the construction industry are still dying from mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly cancer with no cure. Wrongful death lawsuits may be filed over chemicals ranging from weed killers and pesticides to lead in water supplies.

Dangerous Drugs & Devices – Drugs can often cause dangerous or deadly complications. Pharmaceutical companies have faced wrongful death lawsuits for failing to warn about these lethal side-effects. At The Smith Law Center, we have represented families against manufacturers of devices and popular drugs, including Zantac, Xarelto and various opioids.

Defective Products –  Dangerous products linked to deaths range from defective tires, Takata airbags on cars that have exploded during fender benders, and furniture from IKEA that tipped over, killing children. Manufacturers, retailers and marketers may all be named in wrongful death lawsuits.

Unlawful KillingsWrongful death lawsuits have been brought against cities and police departments over police shootings. Often, even when police officers are cleared of criminal charges, the victim’s families can make a recovery in a wrongful death case. The family of Michael Brown, the unarmed black man shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, MO, reached a settlement with the City of Ferguson after the death.

Failure to Act Lawsuits – Wrongful death suits have been brought against authorities accused of inaction in situations such as mass shootings. For example, a victim’s father filed a wrongful death lawsuit against former Broward Sheriff Deputy Scot Peterson after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting. As the school resource officer during the time of the shooting, Peterson failed to enter the school to protect students in the February 2018 rampage.

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