What Are Wrongful Death Claims? How Do They Differ from Personal Injury Claims?

Categories: Wrongful Death

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Washington Attorneys Serving Victims of Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims

When a loved one passes away as a result of someone’s negligence, surviving family members are often confused as to what legal actions they may have available. The legal terminology can be confusing, but the concept is simple: those responsible for the individual’s death can be held liable for their actions. While there is no monetary value that can be placed on an individual’s life, settlement values are established in the state based on four statutes.

Child Death Claims

Washington statutes do address the unique tragedies regarding injury and death of a child. Under RCW 4.24.010, a child’s death could result in compensation to the parents to cover parental grief, mental anguish, suffering, loss of love and companionship, injury to the child/parent relationship, medical and hospital expenses and other related expenses associated with the child’s injury and death.

General Wrongful Death Claims

These fall under the general wrongful death statute, RCW 4.20.010. This is an action that is brought by a personal representative on behalf of the deceased. It can include a spouse, child or surviving children.

For decedents with a surviving spouse and/or children, the jury can award damages based on how the deceased’s death impacts their quality of life (including emotional support, financial support, etc.). Pain and suffering in anticipation of death is only recoverable by the beneficiaries listed in the statute specifically – such as a surviving spouse or child.

Survival Statute Claims

These claims apply to all decedents, including those who are not married nor have children. Under RCW 4.20.046, a claim is brought by a personal representative of the deceased in benefit of his or her estate. Damages for these types of claims can include the earning capacity that the deceased would have contributed had they lived to a normal life expectancy. This is established by:

  • Assessing their earning capacity history
  • Accounting for how many more working years they had before retirement
  • Discounting the present rate based on economic changes

Special Personal Injury Claims

These claims fall under the Special Personal Injury Statute, RCW 4.20.060, when survivors may not qualify for other damages under other statutes. The claim is brought on behalf of the spouse or surviving children of the deceased. If there is no surviving spouse, then other surviving family members that relied on the deceased for support can file the claim (such as parents, brothers or sisters). Recoverable losses in these types of cases include medical and hospital charges, funeral and burial expenses and earnings lost prior to the decedent’s death.

What is a Personal Injury Claim?

In personal injury claims, the plaintiff is still surviving. The claim is not filed by loved ones; instead, the injured party is requesting compensation for his or her current and future losses. Compensation in personal injury claims can include:

  1. Lost wages (during recovery, as well as future income, if the injured cannot work)
  2. Medical expenses (including future medical costs)
  3. Pain and suffering
  4. Loss of enjoyment of life
  5. Loss of consortium
  6. Emotional trauma

The burden of proof is on the injured party (the plaintiff), and he or she must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care, breached such duty, and that breach led to his or her injuries. Furthermore, he or she must account for every cost associated with that accident, in order to retrieve compensation from the defendant.

Was Your Loved One Seriously Injured or Killed Due to Someone’s Negligence?

If you have lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence, or if you are seriously injured from an accident, the attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown want to help you. Because the statutes are so complex and there are numerous types of claims associated with wrongful death, let our attorneys assess your case and help decide which statute applies to your particular claim. We will then work with you every step of the way to ensure that you receive compensation for your injury or the death of a loved one. Get started today by scheduling a no-obligation consultation at 800-925-1875, or filling out our online contact form with your legal questions.