Trusted Seattle Wrongful Death Attorneys Ready To Fight For You
is one of the best places in the nation to live, at least according to most of its residents. Nevertheless, hidden dangers lurk. The traffic on major highways such as Interstate 90, Interstate 5, Interstate 405, and Interstate 705 can get frightening at times, and for good reason: Seattle roads claim at least a dozen lives every year.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, however. Occupational injuries, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, and a whole host of other dangers kill Seattle residents every year. No legal system is equipped to deal with such tragedies. However, Washington’s wrongful death statute law can provide a remedy– at least to the extent that money damages are capable of compensating for the tragic death of a loved one. Our legal team and our Seattle wrongful death lawyer will help you in your case.
How the System Works
A death is “wrongful” when it is caused by the misconduct of another (a careless or intoxicated driver, a corner-cutting product manufacturer, or a negligent doctor, for example). If the person who died would have had a personal injury claim had he survived his injuries, a wrongful death claim arises against the party whose misconduct caused the death. This claim can be resolved in court, although in practice, most wrongful death claims are resolved at the negotiating table.
Damages can be quite substantial. They compensate not only for expenses and financial losses caused by the death, but also for intangible emotional damages such as the psychological suffering inflicted upon survivors. There is no upper limit on how much a jury can award in a wrongful death case.
Some of Our Other Practice Areas
You don’t have to wait until someone dies from their injuries to contact us. Even if the injuries are not fatal, a personal injury claim may very well be available. We frequently handle the following types of personal injury claims, among others:
- Car Accidents: Just about everyone has seen the immediate aftermath of a serious car accident at some point or another. What most people don’t see, until they become a car accident victim, is the financial difficulties that sometimes result. Washington’s personal injury compensation system is designed to remedy this problem.
- Motorcycle Accidents: Motorcycle accidents, although not as common as car accidents, are far more likely to be fatal. It is possible to be compensated for a motorcycle accident even if you do not possess a motorcycle license. Partial compensation may be available even if you shared fault for the accident.
- DUI Accidents: You don’t need to wait for a criminal conviction to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim over a DUI accident. You can win even if the driver is never convicted of a criminal offense, and in some cases, you can even file a claim against the bar that sold him alcohol.
- Truck Accidents: The harsh reality is that truck accidents are frequently catastrophic. One mitigating factor, however, is that commercial truckers typically carry more than enough insurance to fully compensate just about any claimant. Truck accident claims can get technically complex, requiring the assistance of an experienced truck accident law firm in Seattle.
- Bicycle Accidents: Bicyclists are incredibly vulnerable on public roads. In many cases, an accident will occur because a motorist did not even see the bicyclist until it was too late. We can help you reconstruct the accident and establish fault on the part of the motorist.
- Pedestrian Accidents: About eight pedestrian accidents occur every day in Seattle, and a fatality occurs about once a week. Most of these accidents occur in downtown areas or student zones where people are forced to walk to their destination. Damages awards for pedestrian accidents are typically high because of the seriousness of these types of accidents.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Just about any accident can cause a traumatic brain injury – in fact, this condition can even result from medical malpractice. TBI claims often lead to scientifically complex cases that require expert witnesses to resolve.
- Medical Malpractice: It is frightening to ponder a simple but unavoidable fact – doctors are human, too. While not every mistake amounts to medical malpractice, some of them do. And when they happen, full compensation is in order.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Conduct Qualifies as “Wrongful”?
“Wrongful” means misconduct that could be an act (running a red light, for example) or a failure to act (failure to check a medical patient’s vital signs when the situation demands it, for example) in violation of a duty of care towards another person. The misconduct could be characterized as:
- Negligent (careless);
- Reckless (driving while intoxicated, for example); or
- Intentional (a violent assault, for example).
An act does not have to be illegal to be considered wrongful; yet, in certain cases, an act that is illegal might not be considered wrongful for the purposes of establishing liability. So much depends on the circumstances.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Under Washington’s wrongful death statute, the following parties may file a wrongful death claim:
- The personal representative (executor) of the victim’s estate, as appointed by the probate court;
- The victim’s surviving spouse or registered domestic partner; or
- The victim’s children (including stepchildren).
If no spouse, domestic partner, or children survive the victim, the victim’s parents or siblings may file a wrongful death claim.
What if the victim is a minor child (under 18)?
Under Washington law, a parent seeking to file a wrongful death claim must have regularly contributed to the child’s financial support. It is irrelevant, however, whether the parents are married or were ever married, except that in some cases a putative father might have to establish fatherhood to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If one parent files a wrongful death claim, he or she must serve the other parent with a copy of the legal complaint.
What kinds of damages are available?
A typical wrongful death damages award includes:
- The victim’s medical bills
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages and income that the victim would have earned but for his untimely death
- Compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering
- Compensation for any damaged property
- Compensation for family members’ loss of intangible benefits such as companionship
What do I need to prove to win?
Winning a wrongful death claim involves proving the following four elements:
- Duty: The defendant owed the victim a duty of care. In a road accident, for example, this would mean the duty to drive safely. In a medical malpractice action, by contrast, the doctor would be held to a much higher professional standard of care, as long as a doctor-patient relationship had been established.
- Breach of duty: The defendant failed to meet his duty due to a wrongful act or failure to act.
- Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty actually caused the death of your loved one.
- Damages: Of course, the very fact of your loved one’s death establishes damages. The exact amount of damages might depend on other factors, however, such as the degree of the victim’s pain and suffering prior to death.
What is the difference between a criminal homicide prosecution and a wrongful death lawsuit?
The most important difference is the standard of proof. In a criminal prosecution, the standard is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a wrongful death lawsuit, the standard is “a preponderance of the evidence.” In plain English, this means something like “more likely than not.” It is much easier to win a civil lawsuit than it is to win a criminal prosecution.
Can a wrongful death lawsuit be filed for the loss of a pregnancy?
Yes, as long as the fetus was “viable,” meaning that it probably would have been born healthy if not for the incident caused by the defendant’s wrongful conduct.
What if the victim was partly at fault for the accident?
You can still recover damages, but they will be reduced by the victim’s percentage of fault for the accident (40 percent, for example). If the other party was injured, too (as in a car accident), that party might sue the victim’s estate, and in some cases, that amount might be greater than the amount awarded for wrongful death.
We Know the System and We Get Results
At Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, we enjoy the counsel of nearly 50 years of experience resolving wrongful death claims for our clients and our results over the past few years speak for themselves. For example:
- $2.5 million in compensation for the death of a teenage boy in a Jet-Ski accident
- $2.3 million in compensation for the deaths of four people in a landslide accident on an abandoned logging road
- $1 million in compensation for a pedestrian killed by a truck
- $2.5 million in compensation awarded by a jury for a death caused when a motorcycle hit a freight train
- $800,000 in compensation for a truck accident fatality
All told, we have won over $100,000,000 in damages for our personal injury and wrongful death clients over the years.
Justice Demands a Response
If your loved one has died as a result of someone else’s misconduct, justice demands a response, even if the perpetrator’s actions did not constitute criminal conduct. Contact a skilled Seattle wrongful death attorney at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner today. Call or fill out our online contact form so that we can schedule a free consultation to discuss your options. We serve clients in Mercer Island, Mount Baker, Northgate, and elsewhere in Seattle.