A "wrongful death" is a death that has been caused by the wrongdoing of another person. It is a death that is not natural-that is, one that has not come at the time it was "supposed" to come. In a way, every child's death can be said to be unnatural because children are supposed to survive their parents. Consequently, a child's "wrongful" death is all the more painful because it not only comes out of turn, but would not have happened but for the wrongdoing of someone else.
It's true that money can never replace the loss of a child. Over fifty years ago, the Virginia legislature recognized the significance of that special kind of loss and created the Wrongful Death Statute. (Code of Virginia 1950, as amended, § 8.01-50, et seq.) The law allows parents and siblings (the "statutory beneficiaries") of a child whose death was caused by the carelessness of someone else to recover money damages if they are able to prove that the wrongful act caused the death. The statutory beneficiaries can recover money damages in certain specific categories for the loss of their relationship with the child:
- The beneficiary's sorrow and mental anguish over the loss of the child
- Loss of companionship, services, comfort, etc. from the child
- Reasonably expected loss of income from and services provided by the child
- Expenses for the care, treatment, and hospitalization of the child due to the injury that resulted in death
- Funeral expenses
- Punitive damages
Obviously, not all of these categories fit every case. For instance, when a very young child dies, an experienced Virginia wrongful death lawyer would not present evidence to try to prove that the child would eventually have earned enough money to support his or her parents in their elderly years. Likewise, punitive damages would only be claimed in a case of outrageous behavior by the defendant; that is, behavior that showed he deliberately disregarded the safety of the child.
In most cases, the significant loss to the child's parents and siblings is the loss of the relationship-the great vacuum left in the family because the child is no longer alive, and the loss of the parents' hopes and dreams for their child.
The wrongful death of a child can have many causes: motor vehicle crashes; collisions of motor vehicles with child pedestrians and bicycle riders; burns of whatever kind; or the negligence of day-care providers, just to name a few.
Are you the parent of a child who suffered a wrongful death from a car accident, school bus accident, bicycle accident, or truck accident? Was your child was burned, or did they drown in a swimming pool or die while in the care of a Virginia day-care center? If so, there are important things you need to know [LINK TO FAQ] to protect your family's legal rights. If your child died because of the negligence or wrongdoing of another, you should contact a Virginia child wrongful death lawyer whom you can trust to protect the rights of your family. The laws dictating the rights of the parents and siblings of a child who has suffered a wrongful death are complicated. There are time limitations that apply to a wrongful death claim, and there are special kinds of evidence that must be presented to prove the loss each family member has suffered.