Washington law defines a wrongful death as the death of a person caused by the wrongful act, default, or neglect of another. Because the victim of an accident resulting in a wrongful death is unable to argue his or her own case, the claim must be filed by someone else, usually a close relative. Furthermore, the plaintiff, acting on behalf of a deceased loved one, must be able to provide evidence demonstrating that the defendant failed to use reasonable care or committed an illegal act, which caused the victim’s death. Generally, a wrongful death claim can only be filed if the circumstances of the accident would have supported a personal injury claim if the victim had survived.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Only certain individuals can file a wrongful death claim, including:
- The surviving spouse or registered domestic partner of the deceased; and
- The children or stepchildren of the deceased party.
If the deceased party has no surviving spouse, partner, or child, his or her parents or siblings can file the claim, but only if they were:
- Dependent upon the deceased for support; and
- Residents of the U.S. at the time of the decedent’s death.
There are also specific rules that apply when a wrongful death claim involves the death of a child. In these cases, either parent can file a claim, although in order to be eligible, he or she must have regularly contributed to the support of the child. Furthermore, if only one parent brings an action, that individual must serve the other parent with a copy of the complaint, explaining that the right to recover damages will be barred unless the other parent joins the suit as a party within 20 days.
Damages in a wrongful death case are paid to the decedent’s estate and can include compensation for the following costs:
- The decedent’s medical bills;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Lost income that the decedent would have earned if he or she had survived;
- The pain and suffering endured by the decedent as a result of his or her injuries;
- Property damage; and
- The loss of companionship and care by the decedent’s loved ones.
When a case involves the death of a child, the parents can collect special damages in addition to those intended to compensate for medical expenses, such as:
- Damages for the loss of the love and companionship of the child; and
- Compensation for the destruction of the parent-child relationship.
However, in order to collect any damages, a decedent’s representative must file a wrongful death claim within three years of the date of the decedent’s death. If the decedent’s representative fails to file before this deadline, the case will most likely be barred and the victim’s surviving relatives will miss out on the opportunity to obtain a judgment of liability.
Contact an Experienced Seattle Wrongful Death Attorney Today
Although collecting compensation can never replace the loss of a beloved relative, it can allow families to pay necessary expenses and remain financially afloat while they mourn. To speak with an experienced Seattle personal injury attorney about your own case, please contact Khan Law Firm at 206-629-9312 today.