Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

While death is an inevitable part of life, the unexpected death of a loved one because of another’s negligence often exacerbates the trauma one experiences. Those who have experienced the loss of a loved one under these circumstances should consult with a Virginia wrongful death attorney.

Wrongful death claims refer to lawsuits filed by the family members of someone who suffered fatal injuries because of another’s negligence or reckless conduct. These claims are similar to other personal injury lawsuits, except for the parties and damage calculations. Under the state’s Wrongful Death Statute, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate or the party appointed by will or the state may bring a lawsuit. The law entitled the spouse or children of the victim to collect damages. However, certain other dependent family members may be permitted to collect damages. Generally, these parties include parents, siblings, and other close family members.

Wrongful death cases typically stem from motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, and products liability cases. For instance, news sources recently reported that a 20-year-old man suffered fatal injuries in a Virginia accident. A pickup truck driver veered into the centerline of a bridge and slammed into the man. The man’s vehicle flipped over before finally coming to a rest on its wheel. Tragically, the 20-year-old died, and his passenger and the pickup truck driver suffered severe injuries.

When loved ones have been tragically killed in a fatal Virginia car crash, the family will often want to hold the responsible party accountable. Their best option is to bring a wrongful death lawsuit and seek monetary damages. In Virginia, there are strict requirements the family must meet in order to be awarded damages by a jury. While damages can never bring a deceased family member back, they can help the family to financially recuperate from their loss while they emotionally grieve.

Recently, in an accident in Virginia Beach, a pedestrian was struck on Northampton Boulevard by a car. According to a local news report, the pedestrian was walking across the road when the driver hit him. He died at the scene, and the driver of the vehicle was charged with possession of narcotics and various traffic offenses.

In accidents similar to the one above, the family of the deceased can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. In doing so, they seek damages for the death of their loved one. Damages widely vary depending on the facts of the case. In Virginia, there is no cap on damages—meaning, a jury can award any amount of money to the plaintiff it sees fit. Their only guideline is to agree upon an amount they deem “fair and just.” The damages amount can include, but are not limited to, some of the following: sorrow and mental anguish, loss of income of the deceased, hospital expenses, and funeral expenses.

The Virginia Supreme Court recently affirmed a lower court’s decision in a wrongful death claim stemming from a single-vehicle accident that took the lives of both occupants. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff, the administrator of the estate of one of the occupants, filed a lawsuit against several parties, including the other occupant of the vehicle. The lawsuit contends that the other occupant fell asleep at the wheel of his tractor-trailer, thereby causing the accident that killed the plaintiff. In response, the defendants argued that the plaintiff was the driver.

On appeal, the court reviewed several of the plaintiff’s arguments, including that the lower court erred in excluding portions of the medical examiner’s autopsy report and the plaintiff’s experts’ opinions regarding the driver’s identity. The plaintiff sought to introduce evidence from the Chief Medical examiner, where she concluded the cause of the defendant’s death was blunt force trauma. Her report relied on the police report to tell her who was driving the tractor-trailer in the case.

The plaintiff argues that under Virginia Code § 8.01- 390.2, medical examiner reports shall be received as evidence in court. Therefore, although the examiner’s report stems from her opinions based on the police report, it should be admissible. Statutory interpretation requires a court to review the plain language of a statute unless the terms are ambiguous. In this case, the court found that nothing in the statute provides that a medical examiner is permitted to make an opinion on an ultimate fact in issue. Further, the statute does not permit medical examiners to base opinions and facts from information garnered through lay testimony. Therefore, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the statute should be construed to admit the medical examiner’s opinion solely because the opinion is in a report.

Car accidents in Virginia are dangerous, and unfortunately, sometimes lead to death. In cases like this, the last thing on the family’s mind is to bring a lawsuit. However, in cases where there is a party responsible for the incident and it could have been prevented, their loved ones should pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. This can assist in their financial recovery—especially if the deceased provided the primary earnings for the family—as they are also emotionally grieving. Below is more information about wrongful death lawsuits and the necessary elements a plaintiff would need to prove to be successful in the case.

Recently, a man was killed in Powhatan County after a three-vehicle crash. According to a news report, a car was heading west when it slowed down to make a left turn and was struck from behind. This vehicle was then hit by another car, which ran off the road, spun and struck some trees. The man whose vehicle was struck from behind unfortunately passed away after the incident. Besides the man’s death, his son remains in the hospital and individuals in the third vehicle were also airlifted to the hospital. The driver who caused the accident, a teenager, has been charged with reckless driving.

In situations where a family member is killed, it is likely that criminal charges will be pursued—like in this case. However, the family of the deceased loved one should still bring charges to hold the responsible party financially liable for the incident. In Virginia, a wrongful death is one caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another party. This means that the plaintiff in the case—the spouse, child, parent, or any other relative of the deceased—must show that if it were not for the responsible party’s action, their loved one would not have died.

We trust our doctors and health care providers to keep us safe—especially when we’re at our most vulnerable and not feeling well. This, however, is not always the case, and instances of Virginia medical malpractice can have serious consequences. When such incidents cause injuries or even death, those who are responsible must be held accountable.

In a recent Virginia Supreme Court opinion, the court had to consider the merits of a wrongful death claim. The deceased was admitted to a local Virginia hospital because she was experiencing nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. After an abdominal CT scan, multiple doctors examined the decedent’s results and eventually sent her home. Later in Kentucky, she was admitted to the hospital again when she experienced severe abdominal pain. The doctors at this hospital performed an initial surgery, which was followed by multiple other surgeries to treat other stomach and abdominal issues in the following two months. Eventually, the decedent died “as a result of complications directly related and attributable” to the initial surgery she underwent in Kentucky.

Following the decedent’s passing, the executor of her estate brought claims in both states. In Virginia, he brought wrongful death claims against the doctors who initially treated the deceased and discharged her. The executor of the decedent’s estate argued that the Virginia hospital and the physicians who treated the deceased were negligent and their failure to identify and treat the deceased’s abdominal issues was a proximate cause of her death. The lower court dismissed the executor’s claims, finding that because he received a settlement in Kentucky, he was ineligible to receive damages from a wrongful death claim in Virginia.

In any Virginia personal injury claim, a plaintiff not only has to prove that the defendant acted with negligence or intent, but also that the plaintiff sustained compensable damages. In some cases, a defendant’s conduct may be so egregious that the plaintiff may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are generally very substantial, as they are designed to deter similar future conduct.

In one recent case, a court upheld an award of punitive damages of over $4 million in a nursing home neglect case. The plaintiffs brought their claims against a nursing facility after three residents died at the facilities in a “vent unit.” The vent unit was designed for ventilator-dependent patients. The plaintiffs claimed that the residents died due to inadequate staffing and a lack of supplies in the vent unit.

The evidence presented indicated that one resident’s breathing apparatus was detached without any alarm going off.  Another resident was found dead with his ventilator and its alarms turned off. The third resident’s tracheostomy tube was not properly replaced after it had been removed by nursing home staff. The plaintiffs claimed that all three deaths were caused by inadequate staffing and a lack of supplies.

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Punitive damages are awards paid to a plaintiff exclusively for the purpose of punishing a defendant above and beyond paying for the financial costs and other harms suffered by the plaintiff. These damages are often awarded to prevent the specific defendant, or others who may be in a similar or analogous position, from repeating the type of behavior that led to the award of punitive damages.

Juries may be given the option to award punitive damages in certain personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice cases when a plaintiff alleges that the defendant committed especially reprehensible behavior in causing the plaintiff’s injuries. For punitive damages to be awarded in these cases, a defendant must have not only been negligent but also behaved in a manner that warrants the additional punishment. These damages are rare but are not unheard of in certain types of cases.

Covering Up Knowledge of a Dangerous Product and Continuing to Market the Product Can Result in Punitive Damages

An example of the types of behaviors that justify punitive damages is illustrated by a recent jury verdict reached against the well-known health care products company Johnson & Johnson. A news article discussing the verdict explains that the jury found that Johnson & Johnson not only marketed a dangerous talc-based powder for women to use as a feminine care product, but also knew there was a high likelihood that the use of such powder on or near a woman’s genitals could result in ovarian cancer. The jury agreed that despite their knowledge of these risks, the company continued to market the product to women.

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The verdicts and settlements listed below are a representative sample of the hundreds of cases our law firm has handled.  Please be advised that the case results reported below depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case and do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case undertaken by the lawyer. 
     In 2013, The Schupak Law Firm. was retained to handle a matter involving the wrongful death of a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle driven by an 18 year old who, at the time of the crash, was involved in a road rage altercation with another driver. The case was challenging since our client was jaywalking at night and was allegedly not watching where he was crossing because he was wearing headphones and listening to music at the time he was fatally struck. Charles B. Roberts successfully obtained a settlement for his client’s family in the sum of $1,125,000,000 after the parties agreed to mediation and all the evidence was presented to the insurance companies.

Please visit the website of our law firm at charlesrobertslaw.com or robertsinjurylaw.com if you are in need of highly skilled and successful personal injury lawyers. The following is an excerpt from those websites which sets out the general qualifications of our personal injury law firm.

The attorneys associated with The Schupak Law Firm and I are proud to adhere to the “The Diamond Standard” in the practice of law. This standard is exemplified by the highest level of preparation and hard work in every case combined with the intelligent pursuit of victory.We accept cases in Virginia, Maryland and in Washington D.C.


Our uncompromising adherence to excellence has resulted in numerous $1,000,000.00 plus victories in the area of personal injury law, and thousands of completely satisfied clients in the fields of divorce, criminal, traffic, bankruptcy, wrongful death, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect and elder law.

A jury ruled this week that Virginia Tech was negligent in its response to the 2007 shootings on campus that left 33 dead and dozens more injured.  The families of Erin Peterson and Julie Pryde were awarded $4 million each after only three and a half hours of deliberation. The jury determined that many of the victims would likely be alive today if Virginia Tech police and campus administrators had warned students of the first shooting sooner than they did.

Cases like this engender public outrage and highlight the importance of wrongful death cases. In a case like this, family members want to see that the people responsible for their loved one’s death are brought to justice. Negligent conduct such as that displayed by the university’s staff and campus police in this case should not go unpunished. Wrongful death cases, such as this one are extremely complex and may take years to resolve.  If you have lost a loved one due to the wrongful conduct of another, contact a Woodbridge wrongful death lawyer to explore your legal options.

If someone else’s negligence led to your loved one’s death, call a Woodbridge injury attorney at (703) 798-3039 for a consultation. Our team of experienced attorneys can help you seek justice for your loss. We handle wrongful death cases in Woodbridge, Fredericksburg, Stafford, and throughout the state of Virginia. The Woodbridge wrongful death lawyers at the The Schupak Law Firm work on a contingent fee basis, which means that you don’t pay a fee unless you receive monetary recovery in your case.

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