Losing a loved one can be one of the hardest things you will ever go through. Losing someone as the result of an accident that could have been prevented is nothing short of a tragedy. Sadly, this happens far more often than you might think. If you have lost a family member or loved one and you believe that another person, or entity, was responsible for the death, then you may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim in the State of Washington.
A wrongful death claim in the State of Washington operates under the same general idea as a personal injury lawsuit in the sense that it holds a person or entity responsible for causing, or contributing to, the death of your loved one. For example, if your loved one was killed in a car accident and the other driver was at fault, you may have the basis for a wrongful death claim. Likewise, if your loved one was killed in an airplane accident and faulty equipment on the airplane was the cause of the accident, the airline could be held responsible through a wrongful death claim.
There are, however, important differences between a personal injury accident lawsuit and a wrongful death claim.
For starters, a wrongful death claim can be filed only by certain people. A claim may be filed by the estate of the decedent for things such as the cost of burial and income the decedent would have earned had the accident not happened. Certain relatives may also be entitled to file a claim for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are based on what the decedent would have provided to the claimant had he or she lived. Non-economic damages are what people often refer to as “pain and suffering” and attempt to quantify the emotional impact the decedent’s death had on the claimant. There is also a special type of compensation allowable to a claimant when the decedent was a child.
Washington uses a two-tier system when determining who has the right to file a wrongful death claim. Certain individuals are automatically entitled to file a claim based on their relationship to the claimant. This first tier includes the spouse and children. The second tier includes parents and siblings. Second tier claimants can file a claim only if they were financially dependent on the decedent at the time of death. The exception to this is if the death was that of a child, in which case the financial dependency test is not required.
If you have lost a loved one through someone else’s negligence, no amount of money can bring them back; however, the party responsible for their death should be held accountable. Determining the value of a wrongful death claim can be extremely difficult from a legal point of view. It can also be emotionally painful for the survivors. Time limits apply when filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Unfortunately, many potential claimants are understandably grief stricken for a considerable amount of time after the death and miss the deadline for filing a claim.
If you think that you may be entitled to file as a claimant in a Washington State wrongful death claim, please contact the attorneys at the Mariano Morales Law Firm at 509-457-1948 and let us put our years of experience and compassion to work for you and your family.