Experienced Bellingham Wrongful Death Attorneys Ready To Serve You
Bellingham ‘s small-town feel, combined with the spectacular beauty of Whatcom County, can be deceptive. Interstate 5, for example, plays unwilling host to most of the area’s fatal traffic accidents. In addition to traffic dangers, Bellingham residents face a host of other dangers, both visible and invisible, ranging from slip and fall accidents to defective pharmaceuticals.
Some of the most common types of accidents which lead to fatalities include:
- Truck, car, and motorcycle accidents;
- Bicycle accidents;
- Pedestrian accidents;
- Workplace accidents;
- Accidents involving medical malpractice;
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Accidents caused by product defects;
- And more.
Essentially, any type of accident that is a result of someone else’s negligence can lead to a wrongful death claim. When your loved one dies due to someone else’s misconduct, it’s time to take action. When one person is injured by someone else’s misconduct, a personal injury claim arises. But when someone dies from their injuries, their claim does not die with them. Washington’s wrongful death statute, Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 4.20.010, states that:
“When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another his or her personal representative may maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death.”
This statute allows certain close relatives of the victim, or the personal representative of the victim’s probate estate, to file a wrongful death claim for damages. However, winning such a claim can be complex due to the difficulty of proving the defendant’s fault with admissible evidence. There could be any number of possible defendants in wrongful death claims. Often, these claims can include individuals and companies as defendants and potentially multiple other parties, including:
- Property Owners;
- Employees and Employers;
- Car and Truck Companies;
- Insurance Companies;
- And more.
These are just a few examples of many potential defendants who might be named in a wrongful death claim. An experienced and qualified lawyer will be able to listen to your particular circumstances. They will then advise you as to what grounds you have for filing a claim and who the potential defendants might be in your case.
While every wrongful death claim will, understandably, be slightly different (as circumstances are different in each case), there is a general process that most claims follow:
- Retain an attorney: The first step in filing a claim is, of course, hiring a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer to represent you. Having an attorney who understands the law and the best legal strategies to employ on your behalf is essential.
- Investigate and gather evidence: Generally, wrongful death claims require extensive investigation into the cause of the accident as well as how it led to the family member’s death. An experienced lawyer will understand how to review medical records, interview witnesses, and retain experts to investigate and determine if evidence of wrongdoing exists to support a claim. During this portion of the process, you will also identify all potential defendants in the case.
- Filing the lawsuit: After gathering sufficient evidence and determining the appropriate defendants, your lawyer will officially file the claim and choose a personal representative in the lawsuit.
- Conducting discovery: During the discovery phase of the claim, the defendants and plaintiffs will exchange records, evidence, and other important information, including answering written questions, taking depositions, and deposing or interviewing expert witnesses, if necessary.
- Settlement or Trial: At any time prior to the end of a trial, the parties may decide to settle the case for an agreed-upon amount. If the case does not settle, a judge or jury will ultimately issue a decision on the matter.
Someone to Fight for You
It is not a good idea to attempt to handle a wrongful death claim on your own – any more than it would be a good idea to attempt to perform surgery on yourself. You are going to need assistance, and not just any Bellingham wrongful death lawyer will do. You want an attorney with knowledge, experience, and the right blend of compassionate yet aggressive representation to fight on your behalf. If you have lost a loved one, you are no doubt feeling overwhelmed with your grief alone. Financial difficulties and other life stressors caused by the accident shouldn’t add to your burden. You deserve compensation for your loss, and you need an attorney who will help you pursue the best strategies under the law to obtain that compensation.
At Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, we are no “new kids on the block” – we have been in business since 1972. In nearly 50 years of practice, we have obtained many seven-figure settlements and verdicts for our clients.
Some of Our Other Practice Areas
We frequently handle just about every major type of personal injury claim including:
- Car Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- DUI Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Sexual Abuse
- Products Liability
We also handle medical malpractice, defective drugs, slip and fall accident cases, and more.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit during the defendant’s criminal trial?
Yes, you can. A civil lawsuit and a criminal prosecution are two completely different proceedings. You could possibly win your wrongful death lawsuit even if the defendant is acquitted in criminal court. This is because of the lower standard of proof that applies to civil lawsuits. It is much easier to win a lawsuit than it is to win a criminal prosecution.
What is the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in Washington State?
The statute of limitations sets the deadline by which you must file a lawsuit. Once you have filed the lawsuit, you have beaten the statute of limitations deadline, no matter how long the lawsuit eventually takes. In Washington, you generally have three years from the victim’s date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The deadline may be shorter, however, if the victim survived for a while before he died.
How much money might be awarded?
Under Washington wrongful death law, compensation can be awarded for:
- The victim’s medical bills prior to death (if you are the one who paid them)
- The victim’s funeral and burial expenses (if you are the one who paid them)
- The victim’s pain and suffering prior to death
- An amount equal to the amount of money the victim would have earned if the accident had not occurred (more would likely be available for the death of a young adult, for example, than for an older worker)
- Loss of property
- Loss of the intangible benefits provided by your loved one, such as care and companionship
Does it matter if the accident was partly the victim’s fault?
It matters, but it does not necessarily defeat the claim. If the victim was partially at fault, you will lose an amount equivalent to the victim’s percentage of fault (if the victim was 30 percent at fault, for example, you will only receive 70 percent of the amount of damages that would have been available if the defendant was not at fault).
An escalator in a shopping mall department store malfunctioned by stopping suddenly, causing Ann to fall forward and hit her head on one of the stairs. Ann died at the hospital the next day. Ann’s husband, Bill, filed an informal claim for damages against the department store and the shopping mall for the wrongful death of Ann.
The department store was dropped from the claim when it produced a lease that allocated responsibility for maintaining the escalator to the shopping mall management. Meanwhile, the third-party escalator maintenance company was added to the claim.
Bill, acting as executor of Ann’s probate estate, committed the error of granting the defendants complete access to Ann’s medical records, which revealed that she took daily medication that caused a side effect of frequent dizzy spells. The defendants maintained that Ann would not have fallen but for her pre-existing condition of susceptibility to dizzy spells.
Bill produced a witness willing to testify that several people fell when the escalator stopped and that a personal injury lawsuit had already been filed against the shopping mall by one of the other passengers on the escalator. The elevator maintenance company, fearful of losing in court and generating bad publicity, reaches a generous private settlement with Bill.
Contact Us Today
If your loved one died under circumstances that lead you to believe that someone else was responsible, justice demands a response. And the sooner you act, the better your chances will be since evidence tends to deteriorate over time. Speak with a trusted Bellingham wrongful death attorney by contacting Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner today by calling or filling out our online contact form so that we can schedule a free case consultation with you.
You don’t need to worry that you can’t afford us. Since we work on a contingency fee structure, we will charge you nothing until and unless we win your case and you actually receive compensation. At that point, our legal fees will amount to a percentage of your compensation – and if you receive nothing, our bill is zero. We serve clients in Columbia, Alabama Hill, Fairhaven, and elsewhere in Bellingham and the state of Washington.