Wrongful Death Damages
Wrongful death damages consist of both economic losses and non-economic losses. The economic losses are principally loss of income suffered by the survivors as a result of the passing of the decedent. In 2008 the Virginia Supreme Court dealt with a case of where the marriage of the decedent was dysfunctional. In spite of that, the Court properly submitted to the jury the issue of awarding the surviving wife damages for the decedent’s loss of income, services, protection, care and assistance. The Court refused to allow an award to the wife for solace since the marriage was dysfunctional.
In another decision from the Virginia Supreme Court in 2000 the jury returned a verdict for the precise amount of the funeral expenses. The jury awarded no money for sorrow, mental anguish and solace. The Court found that verdict was inadequate as a matter of law.
In terms of proving future loss of income, typically the life expectancy table is admissible into evidence. In order to prove loss of income it is not required that the survivor prove dependency on the decedent. There must, however, be some proof of actual loss to the beneficiary, i.e. that the wages of the decedent in fact would have been used for the benefit of the survivor.
In any wrongful death action it is important to keep in mind that the objective of the wrongful death action is to compensate the beneficiary and not necessarily to accumulate an estate. Therefore, the damages should be limited to the loss sustained by the beneficiary. In a 1972 case the Virginia Supreme Court dealt with an issue of where the decedent was totally disabled prior to death. He supported his children with food stamps and a veteran’s pension. The dependents continued to receive his social security and veterans benefits after his death. As such, there was no financial loss.
For more information on wrongful death damages see the other pages on this site.