Limitation statutes often connect to various offenses in different states. No two states are exactly alike when you’re talking about this. Because of the differences, you need to research the limitations statute for each offense or crime for which you’re trying to hold someone else accountable.
We’ll look at Virginia’s wrongful death statute of limitations in particular in this article. If you live in Virginia and someone you know dies under wrongful circumstances, you should know to act fast if you want to sue the individual or entity that caused it.
What Damages Can You Seek?
When you’re looking at Virginia’s wrongful death statute of limitations, what damages you can seek is probably the first thing you’ll want to know. There are several recoverable damage categories, and you could seek money for one or several of them.
You might look for punitive damages. This term refers to death coming from wanton or willful action by another person. Recklessness might be the reason why you would seek this money or willful disregard by a person for another’s safety and wellbeing.
Funeral expenses are another reason you might sue a person who caused a loved one’s death. You may also have a situation where your loved one died after a hospitalization period. You can sue a person for expenses related to that.
Income loss is something else you might look for after a loved one dies. Maybe you could have reasonably expected that person to keep working for another 20-30 years. If you can’t get that income from them now, that might put you in a very bad position, especially if they were the family’s primary breadwinner.
Finally, you can seek money because of the sorrow and mental anguish you feel. Maybe the person who died was your spouse, and you can hardly imagine life without them. If you can convince a jury of that, you may have quite a bit of money coming your way.
The Two-Year Statute of Limitations
Speaking about Virginia in particular, if you are going to try to bring a wrongful death suit against someone, you usually have two years in which to do it. That’s a pretty long time, but it may take you several months to get over the person’s death to the point that you’re ready to seek legal action. The mourning period may be a time when you don’t even want to think about hiring a lawyer and everything which goes along with that.
If you can’t declare you’re suing the individual or entity that caused your loved one’s death before those two years are up, you will almost always lose the opportunity to sue in Virginia. There might be exceptions in some instances, but you would need to speak to an attorney about those.
What About Exceptions to this Rule?
There are those notable exceptions where you can still sue after two years have passed. Your lawyer will certainly point these out if you need to hire one.
For instance, a situation might arise where more than two years pass before determining that a wrongful act killed the person in question. That doesn’t happen very often, but it’s not inconceivable.
The defendant might also take actions to block your suing, such as declaring bankruptcy. That’s a tactic that won’t always work if you’re intent on pressing charges. It can delay your legal action, but you may still be able to sue after two years have passed.
There are also cases sometimes where you know there someone caused a person’s unlawful death, but you can’t figure out who that person’s representative should be. Once you do, that individual can sue, even if more than two years have gone by.
What an Attorney Might Do for You in These Instances
If someone you love dies in Virginia, and you decide to sue, getting a lawyer very quickly is in your best interest if you want the best chance to win the case. If you don’t hire an attorney who knows all about the law, you might struggle to understand what to do and when.
The lawyer can conduct a thorough investigation into what happened. If you hire them on a contingency basis, you also won’t have to pay any money to fund that investigation. Your lawyer will expect that you’ll pay for that out of your winnings if the case ever does go to trial and you win.
Often, an attorney will already have investigators on their payroll. These individuals are very good at finding out exactly what happened to your loved one. They might look at video evidence, doctor’s notes or records, eyewitness testimony, and much more.
The lawyer will probably try to come up with a number that makes sense regarding what you should ask the jury for during the trial phase. That can be the hardest part. You need to try to quantify with a number what the deceased person meant to you.
Obviously, you might feel like no monetary amount can replace them, but there will be other trials and settlements that your lawyer can look at to determine precedent. They might see that a similar case yielded a certain amount, and they may say that same number when money comes up in the courtroom.
The person or entity that caused your loved one’s death might decide to settle before the trial ever starts. That depends on what their lawyer tells them to do.
If they know there’s a mountain of evidence that says they killed this person through their negligence or reckless actions, they might be willing to turn over some money instead of drawing out a lengthy trial. The real question is whether the amount they offer will satisfy you.
If your lawyer tells you that you can get more at trial, you can refuse the settlement offer. It depends on whether you want a speedy resolution or you feel your loved one’s death is worth more.