If a loved one suffered fatal injuries caused by someone’s negligence or intentional acts, you might have a legal right to collect damages on their behalf. Understandably, you may feel at a loss about what to do next.
No amount of money could ever make up for the depth of your loss. However, a wrongful death lawyer can help you file a wrongful death claim to hold the responsible party accountable and recover compensation for your family.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit brought against a person or entity who caused the death of a loved one. These types of claims aim to compensate family members and survivors of the deceased person. When a person’s negligent or reckless actions—or even intentional conduct—cause fatal injuries, a wrongful death claim may result. Wrongful death actions may involve the following types of accidents:
- Workplace accidents,
- Bicycle accidents,
- Motorcycle accidents,
- Car accidents,
- Product defects,
- Dangerous premises.
Wrongful death actions are similar to personal injury cases. However, they differ in that the injured person can no longer pursue their case because they have succumbed to their injuries. Another party may then bring the wrongful death case on the deceased person’s behalf. Wrongful death claims represent a complex area of law requiring the assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney.
Who Can File a Claim for Wrongful Death?
Washington state requires a personal representative of a decedent’s estate to bring most wrongful death claims. The personal representative may be found in the decedent’s will. In cases where there is no will or the named personal representative cannot serve, the court appoints a person to act.
The personal representative acts on behalf of the survivors and beneficiaries of the deceased person’s estate and their best interests. Therefore, when serving in this capacity, the personal representative must ensure that the survivor’s specific needs are considered when filing the wrongful death action.
Washington law provides that the spouse (or registered domestic partner) of the deceased and the decedent’s children (including stepchildren) are eligible to recover for the wrongful death of an individual. But suppose a decedent was unmarried and had no children. In that case, the parents and siblings may recover damages in a wrongful death action provided that they were dependent on the decedent for support while the decedent was alive.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A statute of limitations is a period of time, defined by law, during which one may file a claim. Filing after this statute of limitations period expires will likely bar your claim and prohibit you from filing. For wrongful death actions in Washington, a personal representative must file the claim within three years from the decedent’s death. This time may seem substantial. However, it takes considerable time to prepare to file a wrongful death lawsuit as these claims tend to be particularly complex. Additionally, loved ones may be grieving for their loss and put off filing. However, it’s essential to contact an attorney as soon as possible.
What Kind of Damages Can You Recover with a Wrongful Death Claim?
Washington state permits the recovery of both economic and non-economic damages in a wrongful death cause of action.
Economic damages represent calculable losses directly related to your loss. For example, your loved one may have financially supported the household income. Financial compensation recoverable in wrongful death claims includes financial compensation to help you and your loved ones through the resulting financial challenges. Other examples of economic damages include the following:
- Medical expenses while the decedent was alive,
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses,
- Lost income, and
- Future lost earnings.
Maintain all records of your financial losses to support your claim for economic damages. Your lawyer uses this tangible evidence to strengthen your claim for this category of compensation.
Non-economic damages represent subjective losses directly related to the wrongful death claim. Examples of non-economic damages include the following:
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional distress,
- Loss of consortium or companionship,
- Loss of parenting, and
- Loss of love and affection.
While there is no way to calculate non-economic damages directly, never overlook these damages. They compensate loved ones for the psychological, emotional, and physical losses related to the wrongful death, and they are often substantial.
What Is the Average Settlement in Washington State for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death cases range significantly in value based on the facts of each case. Consequently, there is no average settlement for wrongful death because each wrongful death claim presents a unique set of facts particular to your situation. Many factors may impact the potential value of any wrongful death claim. Upon review of the specific facts and circumstances regarding your wrongful death claim, your attorney may provide you with an average settlement amount for your specific case. Factors that may affect the value of a wrongful death claim include the following:
- The decedent’s age,
- The decedent’s future earning potential,
- The decedent’s medical bills related to the injuries that caused their death, and
- Available insurance policy coverage and limits.
In a trial, a jury considers that wrongful death claims are to provide for the victim’s loved ones for as long as the decedent would have been expected to live if not for the accident.
Contact Us for Help
When you hire Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner as your wrongful death lawyer, you can stop worrying about your mounting financial pressures and begin focusing on healing. With over forty years of legal experience, we deliver world-class legal support to our clients. Before we agree to represent you, we make sure you understand all the benefits and risks involved in a wrongful death cause of action. We give you the tools to make an informed decision for yourself.
We work on a contingency-fee structure, meaning that there are no up-front costs or fees and no hourly rates. We receive payment from funds we obtain a settlement of your claim or reach a verdict. Reach out to us if you have questions about a potential wrongful death lawsuit. We are here to help, and we understand what you are going through. We provide free consultations, so contact us today.