Virginia’s definition of statutory beneficiaries

Compensation for wrongful death and survival claims in Virginia may only be collected by surviving family members defined as “statutory beneficiaries.” The Code of Virginia has a very specific order of priority governing which relatives may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a deceased family member. Because the law of Virginia changes often, please note that we do not make any warranties or representations about the accuracy of this content and recommend speaking with a qualified Virginia wrongful death lawyer if you are considering filing a lawsuit.

According to the Code of Virginia § 8.01-53, the order of succession of statutory beneficiaries to file a wrongful death lawsuit is as follows:

Spouses and children hold the primary right to file wrongful death lawsuits. Surviving grandchildren may file wrongful death claims if their parents are deceased

If the deceased has no spouse, children or grandchildren then the deceased’s parents, brothers and sisters, or any other relative in the household dependent on the deceased may file a wrongful death claim
If the deceased has no children or grandchildren and leaves behind both parents and a spouse, the surviving spouse and parents may file suit

Family members of the deceased’s household primarily dependent on the deceased for services and support may share in the award of damages along with spouses, children, and parents of the deceased

If there is no surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, or other family members primarily dependent on the deceased, awards will be distributed in accordance with Virginia’s estate laws § 64.2-200

Virginia’s code on statutory beneficiaries in wrongful death actions defines a “relative” as any person related to the decedent by blood, marriage, or adoption and also includes the stepchildren of the deceased.

The Code of Virginia bars any parent from filing a wrongful death claim on behalf of their deceased child whose parental rights were terminated by a court. Parents whose deceased child was placed in foster care or with a child welfare agency may not file wrongful death.

The Cochran Firm, D.C. regularly represents family members in wrongful death and survival claims in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. For more information on who is eligible to file and collect damages in a Virginia wrongful death lawsuit, contact one of our attorneys.

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