lilies on black background funeralAs many of us know, a DUI can wreck havoc on everyone involved. It gets much worse in the case of a Virginia wrongful death accident. Losing a loved one is difficult regardless of the reason, but when it’s at the negligence of someone else it can be even harder to handle. While you might be able to hold the drunk driver liable for your losses in a wrongful death lawsuit, you cannot sue the bar or restaurant that served him alcohol in Virginia.

Virginia Does Not Have Dram Shop Liability

One of the lawsuits people can turn to in some other states in this situation is dram shop liability. This puts liability on the bar or restaurant that sold the alcohol to the driver who was under the influence. The idea behind this is that the bartender failed to cut the customer off after he was visibly extremely intoxicated. Bartenders have the right to refuse to serve alcohol to anyone they choose, for a range of reasons. One of those reasons may be that a customer has lost control of himself and he appears to be a danger to himself and others. 

In the state of Virginia, this liability cannot be brought to the establishment. Unlike many other states, Virginia law states that the bar or restaurant is not at fault for damage or harm the person causes after leaving their place of business. Since this liability lawsuit is allowed other states, some Virginians think they can use it in their wrongful death suit when a loved one has been killed by a drunk driver. However, it’s not a valid suit in Virginia.

How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works in Virginia

Whether to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit after a loved one has been killed by a drunk driver is not an easy decision to make. However, our compassionate and experienced legal team can talk you through the process to help you decide if it's the right thing to do. In the meantime, here's an overveiw of how these lawsuits work in Virginia.

The Virginia statute governing wrongful death lawsuits establishes a method for how damages are calculated. According to the law, the jury or court may award damages that it deems fair and just. Damages available for wrongful death are as follows:

  • Sorrow, mental anguish and solace, which may include society, companionship, guidance, comfort, kindly offices and advice of the decedent
  • Compensation for reasonably expected loss of income, services, protection, assistance and care given by the decedent
  • Medical expenses
  • Reasonable funeral expenses
  • Punitive damages

The individuals eligible to receive compensation will be determined at the time the jury verdict or court judgment is rendered. Damages for wrongful death may be awarded to the following individuals:

  • Surviving spouse, children of the deceased, and the children of any deceased child of the deceased are eligible
  • If there is no surviving spouse, child or grandchild, then the damages may go to the parents and siblings of the deceased or any other relative who is primarily dependent on the decedent for support or services and is a member of the decedent’s household
  • If there is no child or grandchild, but there is a surviving spouse, the damages may be awarded to the spouse and parents

There are additional guidelines for how damages should be awarded that depend on the details of the decedent’s family. A Virginia wrongful death attorney would be able to further discuss the distribution of damages.

We Help Survivors Hold Drunk Drivers Accountable

Wrongful death situations can happen anytime someone loses their life because of someone else’s negligence. If you lost someone due to negligence, there are people ready to help you in Front Royal, Culpeper, and Warrenton. Attorneys at Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas are well versed in the Virginia wrongful death laws and they can help you establish your case and get the compensation that is owed to you and your family, even without a dram shop liability law. 

Andrew Thomas
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Civil litigation attorney in Virginia and is AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell.
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