Most wrongful death lawsuits cite the negligence of a liable party rather than ill will. The defendant did not have to act with a purpose in causing someone’s death to bring a claim against them. However, it is important to understand how cases that do involve intent differ from those that do not.
Intention could affect the damages recovered by the surviving family in a civil suit, as well as trigger a potential criminal investigation. To learn more about intent and negligence in Charlottesville wrongful death claims, contact a knowledgeable attorney who could explain how the following information may pertain to your particular case.
There are two types of wrongful death claims that could be brought by an appointed representative of the deceased. The most common is based on negligence, or the failure to use ordinary care in preventing another’s death. For instance, if someone did not obey a stop sign and caused a fatal traffic collision, they could be found responsible in a wrongful death suit even though they did not intend to hurt the victim. On the other hand, if a defendant had some intent to harm or kill the person that died, an intentional tort could be brought against them.
The element of intent can affect the amount recovered in a wrongful death claim. For one, there may not be any insurance coverage if the act was intentional. Insurance companies typically do not cover people against intentional harm, so they would not be responsible for coverage in a purposeful wrongful death case. In this scenario, the only way for a victim’s family to recover is through direct civil action against the responsible party.
However, intent may increase a potential award for damages if the defendant is found liable for the fatal incident. A jury could take the malicious motivations of the defendant into account and assign a larger verdict as opposed to a person who was simply negligent.
Additionally, an intentional and fatal act may warrant a claim for punitive damages. In Virginia, this type of compensation could be sought for actions that were willful and wanton or that involved malice. With the help of a persistent attorney, Charlottesville residents could bring claims for punitive damages up to a cap of $350,000.
In Virginia, negligence is the standard for which a person could be responsible for another’s death. If the defendant was not acting with reasonable care when they caused the fatal accident, they could be found liable.
Negligence is often contested by the defendant or their insurance company. As such, proving liability may be difficult in a Charlottesville wrongful death case without the help of a dedicated lawyer. The potential for recovery rests on the ability of a plaintiff and their local attorney to prove negligence in a wrongful death suit, regardless of whether the defendant had intent to cause harm.
In some cases, a wrongful death claim may be concurrent with a police investigation. This could affect a civil attorney’s access to evidence because the criminal case typically moves forward first. If the police are investigating a wrongful death in Charlottesville, the injured party’s estate and legal counsel are usually unable to use or gain possession of their evidence.
For instance, the Virginia State Police will typically investigate any fatal automobile accident. This investigation could produce measurements, photographs of the scene and vehicles, and an in-depth report of the findings. These would all be valuable to a skilled Charlottesville attorney in building a wrongful death case to present on behalf of the decedent’s estate. However, they would not have access to this material until after the criminal investigation was resolved through a plea or trial.
The premature end of a loved one’s life can unfortunately result in complex legal proceedings. If you and your family are overwhelmed by the various facets of a wrongful death claim, seek grounded legal counsel at The Warren Firm. Our seasoned attorneys could explain the impact of intent and negligence on your particular Charlottesville wrongful death claim. Call today to learn how we could support you through your loss.