A wrongful death case arises when one’s conduct or omission leads to another’s death. Wrongful death laws were created not for deceased victims but for surviving relatives who seek compensation for suffering from a victim’s death. Most commonly, a victim is a family member.
Generally, wrongful death is found in negligence cases where defendant’s carelessness resulted in a tragic outcome. We may often find such cases in auto or truck accidents, as well as in medical malpractice. However, not as often as in unintentional incidents, wrongful death may be the consequence of intentional conduct – in other words, homicide. Individuals, companies, government organizations – all can be held accountable for acting either negligently or intentionally when the result is someone’s death.
Wrongful death is a civil case, and it is crucial to differentiate it from a criminal process. Public prosecutors file criminal cases to charge a defendant with murder; as such, convicted defendants may face fines, jail time, or even a death sentence. Civil cases are filed by individuals to gain monetary compensation for the death of their family members. Defendants may be released from all the criminal charges, but still be held accountable in a civil wrongful death lawsuit.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Cases:
- Pedestrian/Bicycle Accidents
- Motorcycle/Auto/Truck Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Workplace Accidents
- Intentional Killing
Who Can File for a Wrongful Death?
Persons, typically family members who are suffering from their loved one’s death, may be eligible for wrongful death compensation, which may also include payments for grief, reimbursement for decedent’s pain and suffering prior to the death, medical bills, and so on. The categories of available damages differ from state to state.
Statute of Limitations
Every state has a different time limit on when you can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. This is called Statute of Limitations. If you fail to file before your state’s deadline, you lose the right to hold anyone accountable for your family member’s wrongful death. In Virginia and Washington D.C., the time frame to sue for wrongful death is two years. In Maryland, you have three years to file a claim for any recovery against a responsible party who contributed to the death of your loved one.
Wrongful Death Laws in Virginia
In Virginia, individuals may file a lawsuit for wrongful death of their family member within two years from the date that the death occurred. The court and jury will award only those damages that they find “fair and just.” The next important factor to consider is that under Virginia law, there are several classes of beneficiaries, which include spouses and children, siblings and parents, and so on. If first-class beneficiaries are not alive or never existed, the compensation may be divided between the beneficiaries of the second class.
Wrongful Death Laws in Washington D.C.
Before 2012, individuals in Washington D.C. had only one year to sue for a wrongful death. Now, the deadline is extended to two years starting from the date of death. There is no actual limit imposed on compensation obtained from a wrongful death case. However, in Washington D.C., plaintiffs are not awarded compensation for any emotional distress or grief resulted from the loss of their loved ones.
Wrongful Death Laws in Maryland
In Maryland individuals can recover economic and non-economic damages. The loss of possible future income of one’s lost spouse is considered economic damage, and there is no “cap” or limit to this compensation. Emotional damages apply to loss of love and partnership, and such reimbursements have a “ceiling”, meaning that there is a limited amount of money individuals can obtain in a wrongful death suit for non-economical damages. The Statute of Limitations for wrongful death cases in Maryland is three years from the day that the family member passed away.
Each state differs when it comes to wrongful death cases. Time frames for suing, compensation types, amount of compensation, strategies, and even plaintiff qualifications vary from state to state. Thus, it is very important that you consult an experienced attorney to get properly informed on procedures, possible outcomes, and state statutes that are applicable to the state in which you are planning to file your case.
I.S. Law Firm will represent you on a contingency basis – that means you pay no legal fees until we recover money for you. For a free initial consultation and case evaluation, please contact: +1-703-527-1779 or via e-mail: [email protected].