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What types of damages are recoverable in a wrongful death action?

In a typical personal injury case, the injured party files suit against another party, seeking to hold the defendant liable for the damages they suffered in an accident. These damages can include medical expenses, lost income from the time they were unable to return to work, pain and suffering and more.

In cases involving a fatal accident, Virginia law provides for a specialized type of personal injury action known as a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is filed by a personal representative of the deceased on behalf of the victim's immediate family members.

Wrongful death cases can come up in many contexts, including car accidents, medical malpractice and workplace accidents. They can involve intentional actions as well, and sometimes come up after a criminal trial.

While a personal injury lawsuit seeks to compensate the injured for their damages, a wrongful death lawsuit is meant chiefly to compensate the family members for the damages they suffered as a result of the loss of their loved one. For instance, if their loved one provided income for the family, and they have lost this income as a result of the person's untimely death, then this loss of income is counted among the family's damages.

Other wrongful death damages can include loss of companionship, medical expenses related to the accident and reasonable funeral expenses. In some cases, family members may recover punitive damages, if the defendant caused the death through willful, wanton or reckless conduct.

Wrongful death cases are emotionally difficult for families. They can also be highly technical and legally complex. However, they can be crucial for helping grieving family members to recover the compensation they need after they have suffered a terrible loss.

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