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Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Most Virginia residents trust their doctors, and for good reason. Doctors are highly-trained medical professionals and, generally, do a great job taking care of patients. However, doctors are still human and sometimes make mistakes or are careless, which can result in significant harm to patients. When these mistakes do happen, Virginia state law allows those who are injured to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible doctor. If successful, these suits can result in financial recovery for the victim to cover pain and suffering, lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and other losses they suffered.

The purpose of these lawsuits is generally not to punish the doctor but rather to help the victim recover. Because of this, punitive damages are rarely available. Punitive damages are additional monetary damages that may be awarded to the plaintiff that serve not to make the plaintiff whole and help them recover, but to punish and deter the doctor’s behavior. Because this is not the purpose of medical malpractice lawsuits, these damages are reserved for rare cases when the doctor’s conduct was extremely egregious and in disregard of the patient.

Recently, a Virginia court discussed punitive damages in a medical malpractice case. According to the court’s written opinion, the patient broke her ankle in March of 2011, and was treated by the defendant, a doctor. The patient required surgery, and after the surgery, the doctor prescribed her Percocet, a drug consisting of acetaminophen and oxycodone, a controlled narcotic substance. The patient had a history of bipolar disorder and alcohol use, so she was at an increased risk of developing an addiction to narcotic pain medication, but the doctor continued to prescribe her Percocet. He never attempted to treat her with non-narcotic pain medication.

Earlier this month, a Virginia car accident resulted in the death of an 83-year-old man. According to a local news report, the man was driving his pick-up truck on Route 122 when an oncoming minivan crossed over the center line, crashing into the man’s vehicle. The man was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. While emergency responders were on the scene within minutes, the driver of the pick-up truck sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

The driver of the minivan, as well as her two minor passengers, were hospitalized as a result of the accident. They are expected to make a full recovery. Authorities are still looking into the cause of the fatal head-on collision.

Pursuing a Virginia Wrongful Death Claim

When someone is killed in a Virginia motor vehicle collision, the accident victim’s surviving family members may pursue a claim for financial compensation through a Virginia wrongful death case. Wrongful death cases are very similar to other negligence cases in that they require a plaintiff to show that the defendant’s “wrongful act, neglect, or default,” caused the death of their loved one. Simply put, the elements of a wrongful death claim are duty, breach, causation, and damages.

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When a family entrusts a Virginia nursing home with the care of their loved one, the family rightfully expects the nursing home to engage in the proper care and treatment of their family member. Nursing homes and their employees owe their residents a duty of care to ensure their safety and well-being. In cases where a nursing home places a resident in danger or causes them harm, the resident or their family members may file a Virginia personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the facility.

Virginia takes nursing home abuse very seriously, and the legislature has enacted several laws specifically directed to protect nursing home residents. Additionally, nursing homes and their employees owe their residents a common-law duty to protect them from abuse. Protecting residents involves engaging in a vigorous hiring and training process. Included in this are extensive background checks and continuous reviews of their employees’ practices. When a nursing home fails to take these necessary steps, residents are often put in jeopardy.

Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect because they often lack some of their mental and physical faculties. For example, they may not be able to articulate or even remember the cause of their injuries. Some common types of abuse are physical, mental, sexual, and financial abuse. In these cases, the employee who engaged in abusive behavior may be held liable. Additionally, the nursing home may also be responsible based on the theory of vicarious liability or respondeat superior.

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