In Washington State, wrongful death is “when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person.” For example:
- A driver kills someone in an auto accident
- A property owner fails to fix an uneven walkway, on which someone suffers a fatal fall
- A homeowner fails to secure an outdoor pool, and someone falls in and drowns
- A parolee who is under supervision by the state kills someone
- A child dies while under court-ordered custody or supervision
The other person involved does not need to have committed a felony that resulted in death for a wrongful death case to be filed. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you evaluate your legal options for recovering damages from those at fault.
Below are some frequently asked questions about wrongful death lawsuits in Washington State.
What is a wrongful death lawsuit?
In Washington State, a “personal representative” of the person who died is responsible for bringing the wrongful death lawsuit. Typically, that person is the closest living relative or executor of the deceased person’s will. The success of the case depends on their ability to prove the action or inaction of another person resulted in death. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you evaluate your legal options for recovering damages from those at fault.
What are the key elements in a wrongful death case?
To file a wrongful death claim in Washington State, you must be able to prove four things:
- Duty to exercise care.You must prove the person at fault owed a “duty of care” to the person who died. For example, drivers must drive safely, a property owner needs to maintain a safe environment, etc.
- Negligence, or breach of the duty to exercise care.You also need to prove the person at fault failed to exercise reasonable care. For example, a driver was intoxicated while operating a vehicle, thereby breaching their duty of care to other motorists.
- You will need to show a clear link between negligence and death. In other words, you need to show a jury that the property owner’s carelessness led to the accident that caused the wrongful death.
- Actual damages.Finally, you will need to show the extent of the financial and emotional loss that resulted from the death.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Typically, it is the closest surviving family member or, often, the executor of the deceased person’s will who pursues a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who can collect on a wrongful death lawsuit?
Under Washington State law, a spouse, state-registered domestic partner, or child or children (including stepchildren) of the person who died may collect on a wrongful death lawsuit. If the person who died does not have a spouse, state-registered domestic partner, or child or children (including stepchildren), the person’s parents or siblings may collect damages.
How is the value of a wrongful death case determined?
Suddenly losing a loved one in a tragic accident brings a huge financial and emotional toll, especially if they supported others financially, such as children, elderly parents or someone with a disability.
Under Washington State law, a jury is asked to consider several factors when determining damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. These include:
- Medical bills
- Funeral costs
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship or parenting
A jury will decide on the damages after considering:
- The deceased person’s age
- The types of relationships they had
- Their earning capacity
- Their health and life expectancy
- The effect of the person’s death on their beneficiaries
The attorney representing the estate and the parties of interest will be responsible for showing the jury how beneficiaries and loved ones will suffer financially and emotionally from the loss created by another’s negligence.
How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Washington State?
In Washington State, you have three years from the date of the person’s death to file a wrongful death claim.
How PCVA can help
PCVA’s experienced attorneys can help you understand your options for pursuing compensation and damages from those who have caused the death of a loved one. If you would like to speak with a PCVA lawyer, complete our online form or call us at (253) 777-0799 or (206) 462-4334.
How much does PCVA charge?
Our work is done on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay us on an hourly basis, and we advance the costs of litigation. If we help you resolve your case, we receive a percentage of the amount you receive, and you reimburse us for the costs we advanced on your behalf.