Damages in Fairfax Wrongful Death Actions

Generally there are two parts to any civil action. There is liability for physical harm and there are damages for the level of fault. In Virginia you cannot prevail on an action unless you can satisfy both the elements, liability as well as actual damages. Damages are very important in a Fairfax wrongful death case because they are calculated in a unique way. They also present different issues of proof and potential defenses that must be prepared for differently than other types of negligence claims.

Wrongful death actions are solely allowed under statute. The statute dictates the proper party to bring a wrongful death action. In accordance with the wrongful death statute , the person must qualify as a personal representative and/or executor of the estate, and that qualified personal representative may bring that action on behalf of the estate of the deceased.

Types of Wrongful Death Action Damages in Fairfax

The most common damages in a wrongful death action are lost wages, future expected earnings income, loss of the family relationship which is the familial loss, and pain and suffering.

There are different types of losses in a wrongful death case. There is pecuniary or economic loss. This is loss of income, service, protection and assistance provided by the deceased as well as other losses. Pecuniary losses are expenses for medical treatment associated with the death and then reasonable funeral expenses.

There are also non-pecuniary losses. The types of non-pecuniary losses may be associated with sorrow and mental anguish. That is really where the grief comes in. Virginia Code Section 8.01 – 52 allows for non-pecuniary losses especially, and suitably references sorrow and anguish suffered by the beneficiaries of the deceased. Such losses also include loss of the defendant’s companionship, comfort, advice, and guidance. These are generally summed up in the word consortium.

Non-Pecuniary Damages

Affection is one of the non-pecuniary losses. The equivalent of non-pecuniary losses in a personal injury context would be damages called pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is separate in a wrongful death case. It still goes under the category of non-pecuniary losses since they cannot be easily quantified.

Considerations like loss of love, loss of society, and loss of consortium all fall under non-pecuniary damages. They all go under the category of non-pecuniary losses covered by Virginia Code Section 8.01 – 52 in the first paragraph.

Pecuniary Damages

Just as with non-pecuniary or non-monetary losses, there monetary loss is also a type of damage that applies in wrongful death actions. In a wrongful death action pursuant to Virginia Code Section 8.01 – 52, there are three areas of potential pecuniary loss or potential monetary loss and these are also known as economic damages. These is compensation for loss of income, and other things associated with income such as loss of insurance, loss of protection, loss of assistance provided by the defendant, loss of expected retirement accounts and things of that nature. Expenses incurred as a result of injuries that led to the death, and then losses such as funeral expenses, which are usually quantifiable. This is another example of economic damages that are easily calculable.

How a Fairfax Lawyer Can Help With Damages

An experienced wrongful death attorney in Fairfax can help properly categorize and then sufficiently explain each category of the wrongful death action. The statute is specific about what is compensable and what is not and these compensable damages fall into certain categories. An attorney experienced in handling wrongful death cases can find evidence both through lay testimony and expert testimony to maximize the potential damages their client and beneficiaries may fully recover.