Like most states, Washington has its own laws specifically governing wrongful death claims. In Washington, a case qualifies under “wrongful death” statute when “the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.”
One way to look at a wrongful death is as a personal injury lawsuit that is no longer possible because the person who died cannot serve as the plaintiff. Even though the deceased person cannot bring his or her own personal injury claim, certain other people may bring the wrongful death case to court on behalf of the deceased. Wrongful death claims allow family members to receive compensation for their personal losses stemming from the death of a loved one.
Even if the case is being tried in criminal court, a wrongful death claim can also be filed.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Washington?
The following parties are eligible to file a wrongful death claim in Washington State:
- The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate
- The spouse or registered domestic partner of the deceased person
- The child, children, or stepchildren of the deceased
Sisters or brothers may file a wrongful death claim in situations where there are no spouse, registered domestic partner, children or stepchildren.
Available Damages in a Washington Wrongful Death Claim
In a Washington wrongful death claim, damages are paid to the estate of the deceased person or, if the deceased person was a minor, to the deceased minor’s parents. Damages may include:
- Deceased person’s last medical bills
- Lost wages and income the deceased would have likely earned if death had not occurred
- Damages for pain and suffering the deceased experienced as a result of the final injury and death
- Costs related to damaged property
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of care, companionship, and other intangible benefits by the deceased’s family
Specific damages available are dependent on the person pursuing the claim.
Statute of Limitations
A wrongful death claim in Washington must be filed within three years. Even if a separate criminal case is pursued by the state, the same statute of limitations applies. If you have lost a loved one due to accidental or wrongful death and wish to file a claim, it is advised that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible.