Wrongful Death

Seek Justice for Wrongful Death in Washington State

Under Washington law, only certain people are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative of the deceased's estate is allowed to bring a wrongful death action on behalf of those affected by the deceased's passing. The court appoints this representative based on numerous factors; however, if the deceased's will requests that a specific person represent their estate, the court will take it into consideration. That said, the court is not obligated to appoint this person and will often decline if the requested representative has a criminal record, especially if it involves fraud. 

WHAT IS A WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT?

Parties that may be entitled to compensation include but are not limited to: 

  • Immediate relatives, such as spouses, children, and the parents of an unmarried child
  • Anyone who depended on the deceased for financial stability
  • Other family members, such as siblings, parents, and grandparents
  • Common law spouses, life partners, and putative spouses

Understanding Wrongful Death Claims and Compensation

Only one lawsuit can be filed per case of wrongful death; however, that lawsuit can involve separate claims. For example, a lawsuit can include a claim by the immediate family members for loss of financial support, funerary expenses, and pain and suffering, while another claim can be filed on behalf of a close friend that depended on the deceased for financial support and stability. 

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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Washington?

Under Washington law, only certain people are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative of the deceased's estate is allowed to bring a wrongful death action on behalf of those affected by the deceased's passing. The court appoints this representative based on numerous factors; however, if the deceased's will requests that a specific person represent their estate, the court will take it into consideration. That said, the court is not obligated to appoint this person and will often decline if the requested representative has a criminal record, especially if it involves fraud. 

Parties that may be entitled to compensation include but are not limited to: 

  • Immediate relatives, such as spouses, children, and the parents of an unmarried child
  • Anyone who depended on the deceased for financial stability
  • Other family members, such as siblings, parents, and grandparents
  • Common law spouses, life partners, and putative spouses

Only one lawsuit can be filed per case of wrongful death; however, that lawsuit can involve separate claims. For example, a lawsuit can include a claim by the immediate family members for loss of financial support, funerary expenses, and pain and suffering, while another claim can be filed on behalf of a close friend that depended on the deceased for financial support and stability. 

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What Forms of Compensation Can Be Sought in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Beneficiaries of a wrongful death lawsuit in Washington can collect economic and non-economic damages from the negligent party, depending on their relationship with the deceased. For example, a spouse may seek damages related to loss of consortium, whereas a friend generally cannot. 

Economic damages are those with specific dollar values. A good rule of thumb for gauging whether or not damages fall into this category is: if the damages in question have an associated and specific price tag or monetary value, they likely fall into the category of economic damages.

For example, economic damages can include: 

  • Costs related to burials and funerals
  • Lost wages, both for the time the party was injured and for future wages 
  • Medical care

Non-economic damages are more abstract and do not have an objective monetary value. These are generally subjective, and the jury will determine the value of these losses.

Examples of non-economic damages include: 

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • Is there a limit to the economic and non-economic damages I can collect?
    In the past, there have been caps on non-economic damages; however, caps on damages have since been ruled unconstitutional by the Washington Supreme Court. The stipulation regarding caps on non-economic damages still exists in the Revised Code of Washington; however, it is no longer relevant.
  • Can I sue for punitive damages in Washington?
    Washington courts generally do not allow a plaintiff to seek punitive damages for personal injury cases. We can look at the details of your case to determine if punitive damages are possible; however, you will likely be ineligible.
  • How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
    The statute of limitations in cases of wrongful death is three years.

When Can a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Be Filed?

A probate action must take place and conclude before any lawsuit can be filed. This process accounts for assets and liabilities and sees that the appropriate parties receive their inheritance based on the deceased's will. If they leave no will, an administrator will be appointed to locate legal heirs, and the court will determine which assets need to be distributed. Typically, these heirs are surviving spouses and children.

Compassionate & Experienced Attorneys in Washington

While we cannot make the grieving process any less painful, we can take the legal burden off your shoulders. We will handle your wrongful death lawsuit from start to finish, working closely with you to seek justice for your loss. Our goal is to give you and your loved ones the space you need to heal and the confidence that your case is in good hands. 

To schedule a free consultation, call us at (425) 585-4009 or contact us online. We accept wrongful death claims throughout Washington, including Seattle, Tacoma, Yakima, Tri-cities, Spokane, Wenatchee, and Pierce County.

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    “Consiguieron más del doble de lo que otro bufete pudo conseguirme.” - Leah D.
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