Close followers of our blog know that we like to warn our Leesburg readers about all of the potential consequences that come with drunk-driving charges in our state. Just last week, in the first post of our two-part series, we talked about the legal consequences of vehicular homicide, particularly what could happen in the criminal justice system for those convicted of the crime. But as we explained at the end of that post, criminal litigation is not the only legal consequence that can come with a vehicular homicide case.
For those who did not read the post, the other legal consequence we are referring to is civil litigation, which can sometimes arise after a fatal drunk-driving accident. A victim’s family may choose to name the defendant of a vehicular homicide case in a wrongful death claim, holding that person responsible for the death of their loved one. Oftentimes, in these types of personal injury cases, a victim’s family will seek damages, called compensation, that are usually monetary in value.
So how much compensation might a defendant in Virginia be expected to pay in a wrongful death case? This depends on the specifics of the case. In Virginia, there is a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims, meaning if a victim’s family does not file a claim in that amount of time, they forfeit their right to sue for damages.
Another major thing that can affect the amount a defendant may have to pay is whether the family sues for a combination of compensatory – actual monetary loss such as expected loss of income, medical and burial expenses – and punitive damages, which in essence “punish” the driver for their reckless decision. Depending on how the court decides in a wrongful death case, a defendant may be expected to pay thousands of dollars to a victim’s family.
Of course, just like in a criminal case, a defendant is allowed access to a lawyer and is advised to obtain such counsel in order to protect their civil rights. Without an attorney and their extensive legal background, a defendant may have difficulty protecting themselves from a civil claim, meaning they may be forced to pay large sums of money in the end.
Sources: FindLaw, “Virginia Involuntary Manslaughter Law,” Accessed Sept. 21, 2015
Vacode.org, “§ 8.01-244, Actions for wrongful death; limitation,” Accessed Sept. 21, 2015
Vacode.org, “§ 8.01-52, Amount of damages,” Accessed Sept. 21, 2015