Virginia Wrongful Death Laws

As the home of some of America's greatest living history monuments, Virginia's landscape is also dotted with poignant memorials marking the tragic deaths of loved ones, from Arlington National Cemetery to its countless Civil War battlefields. Losing a loved one to war or to any other number of preventable situations, like workplace accidents, is never easy. However, in those situations states like Virginia have a legal process in place to help loved ones pick up the pieces. Below, you will find a general overview of Virginia wrongful death laws and where to go for more legal information. 

Who Can File a Suit?

As with other states, Virginia wrongful death laws restrict who is eligible to bring an action after a loved one dies. In most instances the plaintiff must be the personal representative of the decedent's estate which is usually the executor or administrator. The difference between the two often depends on whether the decedent created an estate plan before his or her death. If so, then the decedent would have named an executor to manage the estate. If not, then the court could appoint an administrator to fill that role.

Condolences vs. Admissions of Guilt

In Virginia, the law specifically states that expressions of sympathy or condolences by health care providers or other possible tortfeasors are not admissible evidence in court. However, the law distinguishes such statements from those which would constitute admissions of fault. So, the statement "I'm sorry for your loss," a common expression of sympathy after one's death, would not be admissible, but the statement, "I'm sorry for causing your loss," would definitely find its way into court.

Virginia Wrongful Death Laws at a Glance

You can learn more about specific Virginia wrongful death laws by consulting the chart below.

Statutes

Virginia Code Section 8.01-50 (how and when to bring wrongful death actions)

Virginia Code Section 8.01-52 (damages recoverable in wrongful death actions)

Virginia Code Section 8.01-52.1 (admissibility of expressions of sympathy)

Virginia Code Section 8.01-53 (the class of beneficiaries is fixed at the time of verdict or judgment)

Virginia Code Section 8.01-244 (statute of limitations)

Who May Bring an Action?

Wrongful death actions must be brought in the name of the personal representative of the deceased person except in cases of fetal death as those actions can be brought by the natural mother or by her personal representative (if also deceased).

What Kinds of Damages are Recoverable?

A plaintiff is entitled to recover damages that are fair and just, which can include:

  • Loss due to sorrow, mental anguish, solace and loss of companionship;
  • Loss of income, services, protection, care and assistance;
  • Medical expenses related to the injury causing death;
  • Reasonable funeral expenses; and
  • Punitive damages for willful, wanton or reckless conduct.
Statute of Limitations

Any action for wrongful death must be brought within two years of a person's death.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Virginia Wrongful Death Laws: Related Resources

Free Initial Review of Your Virginia Wrongful Death Case

Losing a loved one is always a painful experience, but it's even more so when the death could have been prevented. Wrongful death cases are tragic, but they are one way to help you get your life back together and to prevent the same fate for others in the future. A personal injury attorney can help you sort through the facts and determine your next steps. You can reach out to an attorney near you today and receive a free initial evaluation of your case.

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