The wrongful death of one motorcyclist occurred when he was thrown on uneven pavement in a highway construction zone. Two concurrent road construction projects were underway on an Interstate highway. One of these was a paving project. The paving contractor had “milled” three lanes of the Interstate. The process left a two-inch high ledge between the third milled lane and the fourth lane.
During the nighttime hours the temporary traffic control contractor blocked off all of the milled lanes. This was done to protect the second work zone located beyond the paving work. This attempt to manage traffic flow for both of the work zones caused the traffic to be pushed over the two-inch ledge. There was no sufficient warning about the ledge when the deceased motorcyclist approached the area during the nighttime hours.
The decedent was traveling home from work on a motorcycle. When he approached the highway construction zone, the flow of traffic created when the three milled lanes were closed, forced him to the left and into the ledge. The motorcycle made contact with the unexpected ledge,and “tripped.” This threw the decedent to the pavement. He was then run over and killed by another vehicle.
Survivors of this motorcyclist’s wrongful death are his wife and infant child.
The Commonwealth of Virginia defines a “wrongful death” as “caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another party (Virginia Code section 8.01.50). The circumstances of this death must be of a type than would have given rise to a personal injury action in the event that the deceased person had lived. The lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the decedent’s death (the same amount of time that limits personal injury lawsuits).
Virginia law also lists those “statutory beneficiaries” who may recover a wrongful death claim (Virginia Code section 8.01.53) to
- The surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren of the deceased.
- The surviving parents and siblings of the deceased, or any relative who shares the deceased’s household and is a dependent of the deceased.
- A surviving family member entitled to inherit the deceased’s estate under Virginia’s intestacy laws.
The right of any of these persons to file a wrongful death claim follows a specific order. Parents who abandoned the deceased during childhood, however, may not file a wrongful death claim in Virginia. They also may not recover damages in a wrongful death claim.
Damages may be available to compensate the family of the deceased and/or the estate for a number of losses, including (but not restricted to):
- Sorrow and mental anguish.
- Loss of the deceased’s care, comfort, guidance, companionship, society, advice, and kindly offices.
- Value of lost wages and benefits (including those the deceased could reasonably been expected to earn).
- Medical expenses related to the final injury or illness.
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
- Punitive damages. Unlike other damages in a wrongful death case, punitive damages are meant to punish “willful or wanton” bad conduct or recklessness that demonstrates “conscious disregard for the safety of others” (Virginia Code section 8.01.52).
In this particular case, the wrongful death of a motorcyclist was due to inadequate warning of a change of traffic flow during a highway construction project. The claimed loss of income and services to the spouse and the minor child, was settled out of court for $3,175,000.
If your loved one has died due to the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another party, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim under Virginia law. To assess your case or to engage an attorney to represent you, call Roanoke’s trusted wrongful death attorney, Bettina Altizer. The respected team at Altizer Law, P.C., will handle your claim with compassion and with the relentless determination we bring to every client’s case.