The loss of a loved one leaves a void nothing can replace. When their death is the result of another person or entity’s wrongful act, neglect, or default, there are legal options. A wrongful death lawsuit may provide you and your family with some form of closure and financial security. If you choose to pursue this route, recent updates to Washington law make it important to seek out the services of a professional who understands the changes. If you’ve recently lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence, contacting a wrongful death lawyer is a smart idea. They can assist assist you with any legal questions you might have about experiencing the loss of a loved one. Speak with the professionals at Boohoff Law today.
Defining Wrongful Death
To file a wrongful death claim, you must prove that your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence. Negligence means that the responsible party failed to use the same level of care a reasonable person would use in the same circumstances.
A wrongful death case is a civil lawsuit. If successful, the result is financial compensation. The responsible party may also face criminal charges that result in jail time, fines, or other punishment, but those charges must be filed by a state prosecuting attorney. Washington law allows plaintiffs to pursue a civil lawsuit whether or not a criminal charge has been filed.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
There are a variety of scenarios where a wrongful death may occur. The following examples are just a few common causes of deaths that often result in wrongful death litigation.
According to the Washington Department of Transportation (WDOT), auto accidents cause more than 500 deaths in the state every year. There are several contributing factors to reckless behavior that result in traffic deaths, including:
Impaired driving – Drunk driving accidents plague the nation’s highways and city streets. A driver who is drunk or under the influence of drugs is a deadly force behind the wheel. Impaired drivers kill thousands of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians every year.
Speeding – In today’s busy world, everyone is in a hurry. Speeders who think they can beat a traffic light are especially dangerous in intersections. A side-impact collision is often deadly when the speeder impacts another car’s front door panel. Speeding is just one form of aggressive driving that can quickly escalate into road rage.
Distracted driving – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines distracted driving as any behavior that takes:
- Your eyes off the road;
- Your hands off the wheel; and/or
- Your mind off driving
Texting while behind the wheel involves all three forms of distracted driving behavior. In fact, according to the CDC, reading or sending a text while driving at 55 miles per hour takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds—long enough to cover the distance of a football field in your car. Other distracted driving behaviors include eating, applying makeup, or reaching for objects.
Inexperienced drivers – The newfound freedom of a driver’s license and a lack of maturity can be a deadly combination when it comes to teen drivers. Peer pressure to speed or to drink, along with distracting passengers, place other drivers in harm’s way. Zero tolerance laws regarding teen drinking and punishments such as license suspension do little to stop teens from causing deadly accidents.
Receiving medical care for a simple procedure or illness shouldn’t result in death. Overworked doctors and miscommunication among staff can lead to serious medical errors. A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that medical errors kill more than 250,000 people a year.
Examples of medical malpractice cases that can result in death include:
- A misdiagnosis – One of the most frequent medical errors, a misdiagnosis sends patients down the wrong treatment path. Unnecessary tests, procedures, and medications delay treatment of the true medical issue. By the time doctors discover the true diagnosis, it can be too late.
- Medication mistakes – A report by the Institute of Medicine estimates that medication errors injure 1.5 million Americans every year. Missing medications, receiving too much medication or the wrong kind can lead a loved one’s death.
- Infections – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that hospital-acquired infections affect more than 1.7 million people each year. Infections can become deadly when combined with a weakened immune system.
- Never events – These medical errors are called never events because you truly never expect them. Never events include such errors as operating on the wrong limb or leaving items inside a body during surgery. Depending upon the circumstances, never events can lead to deadly consequences for your loved one.
When a loved one receives the wrong treatment, it only compounds their original health issues. Patients place their trust in healthcare professionals and rely on them to provide the best care possible. Preventable mistakes that destroy that trust and result in death demand accountability. If a medical mistake cost your loved one their life, it’s time to discuss your options with a medical malpractice attorney.
Consumers trust that products are safe when they make a purchase. When a product results in your loved one’s death, a wrongful death claim is a possibility. The reason a product killed your loved one may appear obvious, such as defective part, or it may require investigation. Common examples of defective products that can result in wrongful death litigation include:
- Cribs, high chairs, or other baby products;
- Automobile parts;
- Medical devices;
- Appliances; and
- Sporting goods.
Wrongful death litigation involving defective products is complex. For example, a defective auto part can lead to a claim against the part maker and the auto manufacturer. Understanding how to secure the maximum compensation possible requires the skills of a personal injury attorney.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit
The law is specific when it comes to who can file a wrongful death suit. Current state law allows the following people to file wrongful death litigation:
- The victim’s spouse;
- The victim’s state-registered domestic partner;
- The victim’s child or children, including stepchildren; and/or
- A personal representative on behalf of the victim’s estate.
If none of the above people exist, a victim’s parents or siblings may file wrongful death litigation. Recent changes to Washington law now allow parents and siblings to pursue litigation even if they do not live in the United States. They also no longer have to prove they were financially dependant upon the deceased.
The parents or legal guardians of an adult who was a wrongful death victim must prove their “significant involvement” in the victim’s life to be eligible to file a wrongful death suit. As plaintiffs, they must prove they had a parent-child relationship around the time of death that was of an emotional, psychological, or financial nature.
Personal representatives are appointed by Washington State probate courts whenever a person dies and their assets and personal property—their estate—must be distributed by the court, whether or not they had a will at the time of their death. Washington law requires a personal representative to represent the deceased person’s estate in a wrongful death lawsuit. A personal representative is either court-appointed or a trusted friend or family member chosen by the family.
Washington courts only allow for one wrongful death suit in the event of a person’s death due to negligence, however, more than one party may join the suit. For example, each parent is entitled to recover for their own loss apart from the other parent. This is regardless of their marital status. Should one parent bring a wrongful death action and the other parent is not named as a plaintiff, notice of the suit and a copy must reach the other parent and anyone else who may have a right to recover. If another party wants to join the lawsuit, they must do so within twenty days of being notified.
When a family loses a loved one due to another person’s negligence, emotions almost always run high. It is a time of grief, stress, and anger. Deciding to pursue a wrongful death claim is an important decision and a family’s right under Washington law. A personal injury attorney can help you to better understand exactly who can file when it comes to you and your family.
Common Types of Damages
No amount of money can replace your loved one, of course. But fair compensation for the following types of damages can help relieve your financial stress following a loved one’s unexpected death. Plaintiffs may be entitled to economic and noneconomic damages that result from the death. While each case is different, you may be entitled to:
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Final medical bills for the deceased;
- Lost wages and income the deceased would have earned had they not died;
- Damages for any pain and suffering experienced by the deceased during their final injury or neglect; and
- The loss of intangible benefits by survivors of the deceased, such as companionship.
In addition to recovering the decedent’s economic losses, the plaintiffs are entitled to damages for the decedent’s pain and suffering, anxiety, emotional distress, or humiliation. The amount awarded depends upon the facts of the case.
A personal injury attorney may succeed in negotiating a settlement without going to court. Should representatives for the defendant reject such efforts, any attorney you hire should be unafraid to go to trial.
The average cost of a funeral in the United States is between $7,000 and $9,000. This unexpected expense, along with other possible financial concerns, can make the time after a loved one’s death unbearably difficult financially as well as emotionally. No one should pay out-of-pocket, or endure financial hardship when a loved one dies due to someone else’s negligence.
When a Wrongful Death Attorney May Help
Losing a loved one is traumatic enough. When their death was preventable, it is downright tragic. Recent changes to Washington’s wrongful death laws are beneficial to those who lost a loved one due to someone else’s wrongful actions. A highly experienced personal injury attorney knowledgeable about the updates can help navigate you through this difficult time.
While insurance companies may offer you an attractive settlement, speak with an attorney first. Your time of grief is no time to accept an initial settlement offer. The insurance company representatives want to settle the case quickly and do not have your best interests in mind.
Preparing a wrongful death claim takes time. Reviewing your loved one’s final medical bills and lost earning potential involves detailed research. Chances are that the research will show that the initial settlement offer isn’t nearly enough to cover expenses or to protect your future.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to another person’s negligence, discuss your case with a personal injury attorney. Most attorneys offer free case evaluations and they can provide you with options for moving forward.
Time Is of the Essence
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in Washington is three years. This may seem like a lot of time, however, the sooner an attorney reviews your case, the sooner they can get to work. Time passes quickly during the grieving process, and with so much on your mind, it is easy to let time slip away.
Be proactive in seeking justice on your loved one’s behalf. Their tragic death and your tremendous loss were preventable. This knowledge is heartbreaking and you deserve fair compensation. When it comes to wrongful death litigation, don’t try to go it alone and do reach out to a professional personal injury attorney as soon as you can. Let them handle the details of the case so that you can focus on the grieving process.
Time is of the essence so don’t delay. Losing a loved one due to a drunk driver, a medical mistake or a defective product isn’t fair. You trust other drivers to share the road, doctors to not make mistakes, and manufacturers to put only safe products on the market. A death involving a breach of this trust is possible grounds for a wrongful death claim.
Call a Washington Personal Injury Attorney for More Information
Learn more about your options regarding a wrongful death claim by reaching out to a personal injury attorney. Their knowledge and experience can greatly assist you in understanding the process. A wrongful death claim takes time, so don’t delay. Witnesses’ memories may fade and evidence can become lost. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner they can collect what they need for your case.
Breathe easier knowing your case is in good hands. A personal injury attorney experienced with wrongful death claims provides the legal representation you need during such a tragic time.
Call (877) 999-9999 or email Boohoff Law today – available 24/7